Conor McGregor has never been one to shy away from the limelight.
Don’t expect him to use it as an excuse, either. In terms of UFC luminaries, McGregor’s star power is surpassed perhaps only by ex-bantamweight queen Ronda Rousey. Top billing at UFC 194, the promotion’s most highly-anticipated card of 2016, comes with myriad obligations and duties, something which could cause a lesser man to melt under the spotlight’s intense glare.
Not McGregor, however. For the brash Dublin native, it’s all in a day’s work.
“This is the life I’ve created, the life I’ve built. I love this life,” McGregor said during a conference call. “I don’t really get caught up too much in it. I have been in the spotlight for a long time now. I feel I’m a veteran at it. I get better at dealing with it. I only grow; I only evolve. And that’s what has happened now.
“Although I came home with a belt, even before I signed with the UFC I was a two-weight world champion [with Cage Warriors Fighting Championship]. It’s just familiar for me. Another fight, another KO for me and another gold belt. Honey, I’m home.”
McGregor delivered in grand fashion at UFC 189, stopping short-notice foe Chad Mendes via second-round technical knockout to capture the interim featherweight strap after Jose Aldo pulled out of the contest with a rib injury. Now, the “Notorious” Irishman will get his shot at Aldo on Dec. 12 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Meanwhile, Rousey losing her title to Holly Holm at UFC 193 was the most shocking development in the five months since McGregor last stepped into the Octagon. Now, the Olympic judoka is presented as a cautionary tale, as someone who became overwhelmed by the trappings of celebrity and fame and failed to perform on fight night as a result. Whether that’s fair or not, McGregor doesn’t foresee himself becoming distracted from his ultimate goal: unifying the featherweight title.
“I embrace it; it’s part of the game. With Ronda, she does even more [media] than me. I feel maybe there were some other issues, some personal issues,” said McGregor “For me, I just handle my own business...There’s no one better at this.”
In addition to the UFC 194 conference call, McGregor’s Wednesday itinerary included an appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel show followed by some late-night sparring. The SBG representative believes he has found the perfect balance between glamour and grit, between style and substance. Thus far, he hasn’t been proven wrong.
“Recently I watched Rocky 3. At the start of it he has a mansion, like seven cars, he’s got this robot that brings him coffee, he’s doing all these ads and talk shows and he’s getting sloppy and lazy. Meanwhile Clubber Lang is in a dark alleyway sprinting, throwing shots, visualizing,” McGregor said.
“I kind of smiled watching that [because] I’m like Rocky 3 in that I have the big houses, I have the cars, I have the robots bringing me coffee every morning, but at the same time I’m also like Clubber Lang. I’m training like Clubber, but I’m living like Rocky. I think I have a perfect balance right now. Maybe Ronda got a little bit too much into the media and maybe didn’t focus as much on her training. For me, I have a perfect balance. I’m living good and I’m training hard.”
With Rousey on hiatus for the foreseeable future, the burden of carrying the UFC banner falls squarely on McGregor’s shoulders. Sure, there are more accomplished fighters out there, including his upcoming foe, but few captivate the masses like McGregor does. McGregor doesn’t feel the pressure that has been assigned to him, however.
“As far as the Ronda comparison, it’s a comparison that I hear a lot. The comparison is just because we are two workhorses. She puts in a hell of a lot of media work and i put the media work in as well. In reality we are two different people, we are on two different paths,” he said. “I don’t really focus on her situation or anyone else’s situation for that matter. I’m just doing what I’m doing.
“And what I’m doing is I’m carrying this whole damn game and I love it. It feels light.”