Nihal talks Conor McGregor — off the record
Tell me this: is it normal to want to be Conor McGregor? The world’s most exciting sportsman. A warrior. An uncompromising, Gucci fur-wearing, Rolls-Royce riding, left handed leviathan. The king of UFC, or cage fighting as some call it, which is the planet’s fastest growing sport. He fascinates me. I’m a middle aged man who had a few fights at school, hated being punched and never saw the point of waiting in a pub car park for someone who had inadvertently looked at my pint in a way I found at best disrespectful, and at worst a soul-destroying insult not only to me, but to generations of my paternal bloodline.
Indeed I’d do the split second risk assessment and if the odds looked like they may send me to A&E, I always made the sensible decision.
As a teenager, I also remember the Saturday afternoons dawdling through the town centre looking to impress girls who did not have a wide enough imagination, nor a deep enough sense of pity, to find me impressive. I’d then try to convince my mates of my contempt for said girls.
GET YOUR SWAG ON
A few guys from my local town were hellbent on committing Viking-like levels of debauchery every Friday night. I’d see their faces the following afternoon resplendent with black eyes and bruised lips. Their stupid grins morphing into spluttering laughs as they relived the previous night’s altercation. Their triumphs were without swagger, like a rapper with a rented gold chain.
Conor McGregor does everything with swagger, a gargantuan sense of self worth, projected through every extremity of his body. His auburn beard, glacial face structure and exotic body art set him apart. Others pretend to be iconoclastic, going through the motions like a visual press release. A marketed form of machismo designed to give just enough of a sense of danger before being reeled back in again to meet a potential sponsor.
Mr McGregor is free. He is like Javier Bardem’s character in No Country For Old Men, the remorseless assassin bereft of emotion. He will win because he won’t stop. The part of his brain that injects empathy into the thought process is absent.
So why does Conor inspire such reverence in me? Maybe because he represents something unattainable, he reminds me of my own inadequacies. I want to know what that kind of power feels like. His purity of thought is to be envied.
This isn’t about the perceived brutality of mixed martial arts, or the material trappings of success. This is about the building blocks of man crashing through the layers of metrosexuality that swirl around us all. If you get a chance, read Norman Mailer’s book The Fight.
His description of the Rumble in the Jungle between Mohammed Ali and George Foreman is one of the greatest works of sporting non-fiction ever written. I reference it because of how Mailer described Ali. It is how I feel when I see Conor fight. Like I’m being stripped of my illusions of myself. Conor allows me to not have to apologise for being, in some ways, an unreconstructed male… Now, back to choosing an outfit for my next dinner party.