There’s a joke that Conor McGregor didn’t “just kiss the Blarney Stone, he swallowed it,” though his life story provides plenty of material to wax lyrical about.
His transformation from an apprentice plumber in Dublin, the Irish capital, signing on for weekly dole payments, to the multimillionaire, worldwide superstar epitomizes the American dream.
McGregor’s journey to global superstardom and immense wealth began in Crumlin, a quiet suburb on the Southside of the River Liffey which splits Dublin in half.
Growing up, drug dealing and gang culture began to impact on what was once a respected working-class area. McGregor once recalled that grenades would be posted through letterboxes, though the depiction of his life in Crumlin has been challenged.
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24/7 fighting mindset
McGregor’s mother, Margaret, perhaps predicted her son’s career before anyone else, once describing him as being “born with his fists clenched.”
“I’m always thinking about fighting,” McGregor told CNN ahead of his 2017 bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr. “It’s just in me. I cannot stop thinking about it.
“Certain sequences, certain movements, certain ways to prepare. It’s a 24/7 mindset. That mindset has got me to where I am today.”
McGregor attributes much of his success to his background and upbringing, but also to the fierce bond he feels with his family name.
“The McGregor name is historic when it comes to combat,” he said proudly. “Way back, study my family’s name, study my family’s heritage. We were a feared clan.
“At one stage, it was punishable by death to have the surname McGregor. It’s in my blood to fight – and that’s it. It’s what my ancestors have been doing long before me,” he said, elongating the vowel in ‘long.’
Throughout his career, wherever McGregor has gone, controversy has never been too far behind. Over the past year, both inside and outside of the octagon, the Irishman has acquired quite the rap sheet.
Only this month, McGregor was arrested on charges of felony strong-armed robbery and criminal mischief following an altercation with a photo-seeking fan.
The fan and McGregor were leaving the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel, when the fan tried to take a picture with the fighter with a cell phone, according to a police report. McGregor then slapped the phone out of the fan’s hand and stomped on the phone several times.
Last April, McGregor was charged with assault, attempted assault and criminal mischief after he and others allegedly attacked a bus carrying UFC fighters at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The incident left at least two athletes injured and unable to fight at the UFC 223 event two nights later.
McGregor’s last fight ended with a fourth round loss to Russian fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov, a bout that was marred by ugly scenes following the Irishman’s defeat.
Both fighters received bans after a post-fight brawl erupted – McGregor was handed a six-month suspension and fined $50,000, while his opponent was banned for nine months and fined $500,000 by the Nevada Athletic Commission.
Two years ago, in the build up to the McGregor and Mayweather fight, the pair of fighters traded insults at an alarming rate, with some of the comments deemed racist, others homophobic.
The one which drew most criticism was McGregor telling Mayweather to “Dance for me, boy!” when the American was shadowboxing.
“If anyone was offended, of course I apologize,” McGregor said. “I am human at the end of the day. I didn’t … one of them was like … the word ‘boy,’” he continued, somewhat uncomfortably.
“I didn’t even know ‘boy’ was a term. Look, it’s a mad game, it’s a mad business. All I can be is apologetic if anyone was offended. I know who I am, my people know who I am.
“I hope the people watching can put themselves in my shoes and understand where I was coming from. There was no malice or anything like that meant at all.”
On Tuesday, Nurmagomedov tweeted, without making any reference to McGregor: “There can be only one king in the jungle.”
McGregor made more money from the one fight in Las Vegas against Mayweather than he had throughout his entire UFC career.
The 29-year-old has readily admitted the cash – and the security it brings his family – is at the forefront of his mind.
“Money is great. Don’t get me wrong, money is very close in my thoughts constantly,” McGregor says. “It’s easy for me to say that now in the position that I’m in.
“I’m in this position where my money is up here,” he says, raising his hand high above his head. “And it’s always up there in that forever money zone.
“So it’s easy for me to say ‘Hey, money is not this and that,’ because a lot of people struggle and a lot of stress in peoples’ lives is due to financial worry.
“I’m just grateful to be in the position that I’m in. I worked very hard to live this life and to give this life to my family.”
Adding to his wealth – McGregor was ranked at No. 12 in Forbes’ 2018 celebrity earnings – has been the 30-year-old’s new Irish whiskey venture.
Launched in Ireland and the US late last year, Proper No. Twelve – numbered after McGregor’s Crumlin postcode in Dublin – was an overnight success, reportedly selling out six months’ supply in its first 10 days.
Such was its success, McGregor flew an additional 25,000 crates into the US in time for Christmas holidays.
McGregor teamed up with renowned distiller David Elder to create the tipple, a “painstaking” process which saw them test around 100 different blends.
The now-retired fighter says it is important to give back, announcing $5 – up to $1 million annually – from every crate of whiskey sold would go towards emergency services in the country of the sales.
“My dream to be an entrepreneur is now realized and I could not be more proud, McGregor said.
“When I see Proper No. Twelve showing up all across social media as a part of family, friends and fans celebrations, I know I delivered. I am coming in strong with passion and with purpose.”