Life

Conor McGregor is no role model for my son

He's one of the biggest professional fighters in the world right now, but Irish mixed martial arts and boxing star Conor McGregor's outrageous public persona sets a very poor example for young fans, writes Leona O'Neill

Floyd Mayweather Jr (left) and Conor McGregor face off at a press conference prior to their fight in Las Vegas at the weekend
Leona O'Neill

MY SON is a big Conor McGregor fan. He has the MMA fighter as his homescreen on his phone, watches all the videos of McGregor weigh-ins and interviews, wants to take up boxing because of him and wanted to stay up all night at the weekend to watch the Mayweather fight.

We'd watched all the promotional runs before it, of McGregor standing toe to toe with Mayweather, screaming obscenities and insults in his face, calling him a "bitch" and worse.

I'm not naive, I know this is entertainment. I know that McGregor got to where he is now by acting the crazy Irishman who fears no-one. I know that his wife and his new son see a different side to him, a softer side, one where he he's not screaming that everyone is a "bitch" or a "p***y".

I get that the guy has to show pure aggression and arrogance when he speaks to instil fear in his opponents, to make them think he is untouchable.

I've watched McGregor over the last number of years. He was a working class hero made good, brought his long-term girlfriend with him, loved Dublin and loved being Irish.

I read an old interview with him where he met the reporter in the McDonald's around the corner from the gym and had to call his girlfriend on his beat-up phone to pick him up in her beat-out, rundown car because he had no money to get home.

I admired him greatly for never giving up. The pep talk he gave online to the Euro 2016 Republic of Ireland team before their big match was Braveheart-esque. I thought he was amazing.

I've interviewed guys on his team who say he is a great guy, really encouraging, really inspirational and a sound man. They speak of a friendly guy, so approachable and willing to help.

But they also speak of the guy who puffs the chest out and talks the talk when the cameras are rolling.

And that's the only side he lets us see.

Maybe it's because it's my son who is now looking up to him that makes me cringe when I see how much he idolises this persona, created for entertainment.

Over the last few months I've watched videos of McGregor asking a German UFC opponent to "Kiss them feet, Nazi".

He told his Brazilian Jose Aldo that he would "invade his favela on horseback" and would kill anyone who wasn't fit to work, but "we're in a new time, so I'll whoop his ass instead", and told Rafael dos Anjos he was going to "behead the American Gringo".

He recently told Mayweather to "dance for me, boy" a line many felt was grossly racist.

On screen, the man appears persistently obnoxious, flaunts his wealth, insults his opponents, curses, screams, shouts, has to be held back by his minders as he flails fists, gets in people's faces, insults people's nationality, insults their family, points out people's flaws and tells reporters to "f*** off" when they ask a tricky question.

And my boy looks up to him.

The spirit of Mary Whitehouse has not, in fact, entered my body, taken control of my hands and made me type this: I'm doing it all of my own free will.

McGregor and this crazy persona he has created for himself is a bad influence on my son – and your son.

Just like the ceaselessly obnoxious Trump, McGregor has our young people thinking that you have to be a big, loud, arrogant, shouty, condescending, obnoxious, racist, insulting, boastful and brash man to make it in this world.

Forget being humble, warm, grateful to be there or self-effacing: That kind of thing will get you absolutely nowhere.

If you want to make money and be famous you have to be up in people's faces, screaming insults about their mother, and expressing to them in both words and actions that you "just don't give a f***".

I get that he's a fighter and he has to be tough and crazy. I get that he has had to create his own universe, promote himself as a supremely confident king, and I get he wants to mentally tear down his opponents before he even throws a physical punch.

I just wish he'd let his obvious talents do the talking for him, without anyone's poor ma or his fellow countrymen getting dragged into the trash-talking abyss while making our young men think that's how they should talk to someone they don't agree with.

In the end, my boy fell asleep on the sofa before the first fist was even swung. His own sporting activities wiped him out and he just couldn't stay awake.

As I sat there watching him sleep, my nearly teenager, I hoped that he listens to me, not McGregor, and stays humble and grateful.

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