The shady side of Conor McGregor

Conor McGregor is that rare athlete exactly as good as he thinks he is. He's a singular fighting superstar whose ability to verbally eviscerate opponents before the bout is surpassed only by the grievous beat downs he serves during. No moment is too big. No spotlight too bright. Perfectly timed punchlines flow to perfectly timed punches. Then he laughs, grins ghoulishly, standing over another soul he's snatched and delivers a cocky callout for his next prize fight payday, all in his musical Irish broach. Fans go wild.

This rare blend of talents made McGregor the center of gravity in MMA since he began tearing through UFC featherweight contenders in 2013. In 2015 he captured the crown, sleeping one of the greatest fighters in history, in only 8 seconds. By 2016 he was the first simultaneous two-weight UFC "champ-champ." McGregor was bigger than the sport. He jumped to boxing and fought Floyd "Money" Mayweather in a boondoggle that was part sideshow, part bloodbath, and ultimately cost McGregor his sheen of invincibility.

But that's prizefighting. There are no teams. No seasons. No regular ticket holders. The only way to the top is to run your mouth and then back it up with your fists. But as the bodies fell, and the cash piled up — as "Mystic Mac" had foretold — the ego it took to climb this bloody mountain built an edifice of its own. This is the shady side of Conor McGregor.

Conor McGregor was accused of sexual assault

In December 2018, "The Notorious One" was revealed to be under investigation in his native Ireland after a woman accused him of sexual assault, according to The New York Times. The following month Conor McGregor was arrested and then released pending further investigation.

The whole situation is an odd one as McGregor was never mentioned in Irish media because of local laws barring outlets from naming individuals accused of rape before conviction. In a cheeky workaround, McGregor has simply been referred to as the "famous Irish sports star" — a pseudonym that likely confused no one — particularly because the American media has no similar restrictions, and neither does the internet. 

McGregor's accuser claims he assaulted her at the Beacon Hotel, located in a shanty business park in Dublin, where the fighter who estimates his own net worth at $1 billion sometimes books the sole penthouse. The Irish phenom addressed the allegations in 2020 ahead of his comeback victory over Donald Cerrone at UFC 246, "Would it bother you [to be accused]? There you go ... time will show all," he told ESPN. "And I will say a prayer for those trying to bring harm to me with these types of things ... Yes, of course [I deny the allegations]." 

In 2020, the Dublin Police Department announced the unnamed star would not face charges for an apparent lack of evidence.

Conor McGregor was accused of sexual assault... again

Trouble continued for the faux-anonymous Irish sports star when news broke of a second sexual assault allegation in less than 12 months. Again, because of Irish law, anonymous sources told The New York Times the accuser is in her 20's and alleges McGregor sexually assaulted her in a vehicle outside a pub in Dublin, in October 2019. She reported this to authorities the following day and McGregor was then picked up for questioning.

In both cases, McGregor's reps have vigorously denied the allegations, "Conor McGregor is frequently the subject of rumors," his publicist wrote in an emailed statement. "He emphatically denies any report accusing him of sexual assault."

CCTV footage obtained by local authorities near the pub allegedly shows the "high profile athlete" and the young female accuser chatting, then walking to his car around 9 PM where the incident is then alleged to take place, according to The Irish Sun. "CCTV evidence will play a key part in this investigation and gardai [police] are trying to build a picture leading up to the alleged attack," according to another anonymous source. Items of clothing the athlete was wearing were also seized the following day for examination as well as his car to undergo forensics. At the time of this writing, the investigation is ongoing.

'The Notorious One' fights a bus

Something to understand about transcendent MMA fighters is they are not just elite athletes — they are also elite promoters. But when the man, or woman, who has to enter the octagon is also responsible for drawing a bloodlust-seeking crowd, the line between hyping a fight, and outright criminality, can be thin.

That's what happened in the run-up to Conor McGregor's most notorious grudge-match against lightweight king Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229 — a fighter more like a Russian bear than mortal man. Six months before the bout, Nurmagomedov was minding his business inside a bus full of fellow UFC fighters parked inside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. McGregor and his entourage skirted security and then McGregor himself launched a steel dolly against one of the windows, shattering the glass and injuring fighters on board. 

Three months later McGregor reached a plea deal expunging all felony charges and even his criminal record for the incident, according to Rolling Stone. "I just want to say I'm thankful to the D.A. and the judge for allowing me to move forward," McGregor mused. "I want to say to my friends, my family, my fans: Thank you for the support." Having good lawyers sounds nice, however, they could not help him defeat the bear. McGregor was beaten down by Nurmagomedov three months later and choked out in round four, suffering his first-ever loss at lightweight.

He basically fights everyone

If you thought the drama over UFC 229 was over, think again. Not everyone in fight sports feels like dangerous promo stunts are strictly business. It turns out Khabib Nurmagomedov takes these sorts of things personally. "He talked about my religion. He talked about my country. He talked about my father," Khabib groused angrily post-fight.

After Nurmagomedov's arms were pulled from Conor McGregor's throat, and he declared the winner, The Eagle still wanted revenge. In a flash, he leaped over the octagon walls and attacked a teammate of McGregor's sitting cage-side. All hell broke loose. McGregor struck a teammate of Khabib's who had also climbed on the cage and was then restrained by security. But this only opened McGregor to a sucker punch by yet another Nurmagomedov teammate. A horrifying melee ensued. To describe this as the most chaotic incident in UFC history feels a vast understatement. 

I'm just disgusted and sick over it," UFC president Dana White said in the aftermath. And as much as McGregor had fueled the fire, Nurmagomedov lit the match here. "God knows what the [Nevada State Athletic Commission] is going to do to Khabib and his guys," White continued. "Will they even get a visa again to get back in this country?" Nurmagomedov was fined $500,000 for the brawl, McGregor $50,0000. Both have competed subsequently. The bottom line is UFC 229 was a historic financial windfall for the UFC, and the high-drama was key.

Conor McGregor's bar fight

Conor McGregor's spiral continued following his loss at UFC 229. Rumors of a hard-partying outside the Octagon were rampant, and not without proof. Literally. In 2018 McGregor launched his Proper 12 Whiskey and quickly began to see his burgeoning brand, rather than fighting, as his main business. But the problem with drinking whiskey is, the two things can get mixed up.

In April 2019, McGregor swaggered into the March Able Pub in Dublin and poured a round of shots of the signature spirit for a group at the bar. But when one man refused, then refused again, McGregor became agitated and struck the man in the head, according to the Mirror. Security cameras captured the entire incident, and it's quite shocking to see the fighter use the same left hand with which he conquered the UFC, to strike a gray-haired bar patron. Impressively, the man shrugged off the blow and only said he felt the pain the following day. 

McGregor later pleaded guilty but faced no criminal conviction and was fined only $1,116.16 for the incident despite 18 previous convictions — that sum deducted from his $120 million (actual) net worth. He also apologized publicly, "I was in the wrong," he told ESPN. "That man deserved to enjoy his time in the pub without having it end the way it did."

He's stomped a fan's phone to the ground

Not to make excuses for Conor McGregor, but one of the common points of frustration among celebrity elite is the now-incessant expectation they will stop everything so aggressive strangers can increase their social media clout, via celebrity selfie. This somewhat new dynamic has led stars like Justin Bieber to withdraw under the potentially crushing stress and anxiety of constant public prodding and particularly, filming.

While Bieber took a more passive approach, simply issuing a statement that selfies were over, you might imagine a professional badass would take a slightly different tack. That's what happened when McGregor and his posse rolled into the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel in March of 2019 at 5:20 AM. The exact time is known because security footage captured the whole incident. A small group of men began filming McGregor; words are clearly exchanged — then Conor snatches one of the phones with genuinely blazing hand-speed and stomps it into the ground. 

McGregor was charged with strong-armed robbery and misdemeanor criminal mischief, but in another lucky turn for the Irishman, state prosecutors revealed the alleged victim had jaunted abroad and stopped cooperating with police, according to BBC News. The victim had already settled a civil suit with the fighter, so apparently, everybody got what they wanted.

Referees better watch out, too

Conor McGregor has deployed WWE-style promotional theatrics to better effect than basically any fighter ever — given his incredible fame via niche sport and mind-blowing wealth accrued in a promotion notorious for its extremely low fighter pay. But despite the billionaire strut, UFC competition still originates from martial arts honor culture. Many top fighters don traditional gi uniforms and bow to opponents before, and after, brutalizing their faces. In that MMA honor culture, there are certain absolute rules of conduct. Perhaps the most inviolable law is never to assail the innocent. Particular among the protected class are referees, whose primary job is to ensure fighter safety inside the cage.

McGregor broke this code in 2017 as he leaped into the cage at Bellator 187 in Dublin to celebrate teammate Charlie Ward's KO victory. He then shoved respected MMA ref Marc Goddard in the back. McGregor was not a licensed cornerman for this fight, so his appearance inside the cage, let alone the assault, is against athletic commission rules, according to MMAFightingSBA

"Mr. McGregor's conduct jeopardized the health and safety of the bout participants by delaying necessary medical attention to the fighters that were injured during the round," a senior official told MMAFighting. UFC President Dana White had actually once banned a fighter for life for shoving a referee, but this incident did not actually take place in his organization, so conveniently for White, his top superstar once again ducked the consequences.

Conor McGregor has racked up plenty of traffic offenses

Athletes love to spend their money on cars so insane they barely meet the minimum requirements for street legality. Conor McGregor is no different and can often be seen cruising the streets of Dublin in one of his fleet of outrageous vehicles that range from luxury to quasi-legal supercar. There's his $300k Rolls Royce Ghost — one of three Rolls he rolls; three Lamborghinis; a Mercedes, BMW, a Mclaren 650S, an Escalade — because of course — and then oddly, a slightly more pedestrian whip. That's for the kids, perhaps. 

It was actually in a "regular" vehicle that McGregor landed in some traffic trouble. To no-one's shock, the man who founded McGregor Fast with the motto "get into the fast zone now," also has a bit of a lead foot. In 2017 he was pulled over going 96 MPH in a 62 MPH zone in his light Blue Range Rover, according to Business Insider. McGregor was banned from driving for six months and paid a $1,137 fine. This was the fighter's 12th traffic offense going back to his teen years and the presiding judge, seemingly not at all familiar with the defendant, reportedly got a case of the vapors and was "taken aback," by the whole incident. I do declare!

Is Conor McGregor ever going to retire?

Professional fighters love to retire. The thing about fighting for a living is, it's really hard. And even an iconic performance might put you in the hospital with your face swelled up like a dang alien. So, fighters call it quits a lot. Sometimes it's over a devastating loss. Sometimes after an ecstatic win. Sometimes it's just a negotiation ploy during a heated contract dispute. Honestly, sometimes they're just cranky, and cutting weight is brutal, "So screw it, I'm done!" they say, only to slink back months later. Because when it comes down to it, beating up people for cash is a thrill that's hard to replicate.

In April of 2016, Conor McGregor announced his first of three — thus far anyway — MMA retirements, "I have decided to retire young. Thanks for the cheese. Catch ya's later," he wrote via Twitter. Four months later, he was back in the cage. 

This particular "retirement" was a blend of the tough loss variety with a sprinkle of negotiation. McGregor had just lost via second-round submission in a shocking upset to the legendary pride of Stockton, Nate Diaz. The tweet came amid rematch negotiations with Diaz pushing for more of the pie. According to ESPN, McGregor eventually narrowly won the second bout, earning $3 million, the largest ever disclosed UFC payday, with a much bigger chunk coming by way of undisclosed pay-per-view bonuses. Sometimes, quitting pays.

Conor McGregor fights physics

What goes up, must come down. And speaking of the 209's own Nate Diaz, the pre-fight press conference for Conor McGregor's second bout with the Stockton slugger at UFC 202 was one of the most heated promotional events in UFC history. Things weren't right from the beginning with the Irishman rolled in 30 minutes late, which Diaz clearly took as disrespect, and soon walked out of the presser. As Diaz and his crew made their exit, he hit his signature double birds and threw a water bottle in McGregor's direction. McGregor leaped up from the dais and began hurling bottled water right back. As the scene spun out of control, the voice of UFC president Dana White can be heard saying, "that's a wrap, get em outta here."

And with that, it was done, without the traditional pre-fight pose off. The bad blood, whether or not it started as real, had gotten so genuine, the UFC couldn't allow the two athletes near each other until the first bell for risk of blowing up their main event. For McGregor, especially, the pressure was on. Another loss would destroy his path forward in the UFC and upend his superstar leverage. But in the end, McGregor won at UFC 202, which allowed him to go on and achieve the success that made him a household name.

Conor McGregor trash-talked his way into millions

Conor McGregor's greatest gambit was undoubtedly trash-talking his way into a $100 million payday by somehow convincing the world he could compete with Floyd "Money" Mayweather. Mayweather was 49-0 at the time, semi-retired (yes, boxers do it, too) and at the peak of his promotional ability. An MMA fighter with exactly zero professional boxing experience fighting the best boxer of his generation is exactly the kind of challenge that has motivated McGregor his entire career.

To the surprise of many experts who called this bout a fraud, McGregor comported himself well early, landing a massive uppercut on Mayweather, known for defensive genius. But down the stretch, Conor's cardio began to fade, and Mayweather, who reportedly didn't train much for the bout, moved in for the kill. McGregor took a battering believed to have caused brain damage and was TKO'd in the 10th. Still, he walked out of the ring under his own power, with generational wealth in hand, and millions of new fans.

He called it quits after losing his bargaining power

Conor McGregor's second "retirement" announcement came March of 2019 as the fighter was attempting to force the UFC into offering him an ownership stake. Mac's ascendance to pay-per-view superstar had briefly made him the lynchpin of the fight promotion's business, but even top UFC stars receive much less of the overall league revenue than other professional athletes. The Irishman's bargaining power was, however, swamped in 2018 when the UFC announced an exclusive 5-year broadcast deal with ESPN worth $1.5 billion. That meant UFC cash flow, with or without The Notorious One, so McGregor didn't get a seat at the ownership table. 

Mac's third retirement in June 2020 was announced as the Coronavirus pandemic had slowed the UFC's ability to operate considerably. The promotion continued to churn, without fans, but booking mega-fights without live gate revenue was an unacceptable opportunity cost, and as McGregor foresaw himself sidelined indefinitely, he once again called it quits, "Hey guys I've decided to retire from fighting. Thank you all for the amazing memories!" McGregor wrote via Twitter. "What a ride it's been! ... Whatever you desire it's yours."