Before MMA star Conor McGregor rose to fame around ten years ago, Ireland was suffering. Unemployment levels were at around 12 per cent, emigration was necessary for a lot of people and the standard of living was not in a good place.
McGregor was one of the few people who made us proud to be Irish. The Irish supported him by staying up until the early hours of the morning watching his UFC matches, travelling around the world to see him fighting or buying a bottle of Proper 12 whiskey.
We embraced him as a nation. He went from being a young lad from Crumlin chasing his dreams to one of the richest and most successful men in the MMA world.
But with success came arrogance, selfishness and narcissistic behaviour. As Irish people, we should be proud of Conor McGregor and his achievements, but I can’t help feeling embarrassed and disgusted by his recent antics.
During a UFC press conference last year, McGregor slugged whiskey, mocked his Russian opponent Khabib Nurmagomedov’s accent and accused him of disrespecting Vladimir Putin. He also disrespected his religion and family.
Conor was later forced to take time out of the game he spent his whole life working towards after he was arrested in New York for attacking a bus Khabib Nurmagomedov and his coaches were on. He pleaded guilty to this and agreed to participate in anger management classes and community service.
In recent years there have been many programmes and campaigns in secondary schools and third level institutions promoting a view of masculinity disassociated from violence, mindless aggression, sexism and homophobia.
All sporting programmes in Ireland should display emphasis on discipline, fair play and respect for anyone involved. We don’t see that from McGregor.
Most of us can see that his misbehaviour is a well-rehearsed childish piece of work made to attract attention and earn money. He is an MMA phenomenon and as humans we want to be entertained, but is this something we want people admiring and feeling inspired by? I don’t think that this behaviour is acceptable and we shouldn’t encourage McGregor, we should be shaming him and not giving him the attention he craves.
Young males in particular tend to look up to Conor McGregor. Many draw inspiration from his beard, blazers or tattoos and he is certainly a man who helps determine Irish fashion. But what if young boys start to copy his aggressive behaviour or his lack of respect for women? He is making it seem okay to commit crimes and treat women with disrespect.
With enough money, he has the capability to protect his image.
McGregor should represent his country like other sports stars, such as Brian O’Driscoll, Ronnie Delaney or Henry Shefflin. These men continue to enjoy and are grateful for the appreciation from Irish people long after their retirements from sport.
Image credit: Flickr