Moments of the year: McGregor fights for his right to party
Cash is king for the Notorious but he now needs a new dream to chase
Floyd Mayweather Jr backs Conor McGregor up against the ropes during the 10th round of their fight in Las Vegas. Photograph: Bridget Bennett/The New York Times
For Conor McGregor, 2017 was 40 weeks of celebration interrupted by 10 weeks of brutal physical training in which he attempted to build the kind of aerobic engine that could last 12 rounds in the ring with the best defensive boxer in the world.
As Floyd Mayweather could have told him, 10 weeks was enough to build only about four rounds’ worth of engine before the gas ran out and the gloves started to drop. But even though the fight ended with McGregor staggering backwards under a rain of heavy punches in a sequence that looked like it was taken from a video game, defeat smelt a bit like victory: $100 million in the bank.
McGregor went back into celebration mode after that night and there have been weeks when it seems the whole country has been tagging along with the party via Whatsapp. If the rise was something we had never seen before, what’s happening since he got to the top is a variation on a tired theme. His former originality and charm seems to be flattening into a cliché. The Notorious has become a kind of tribute act Mayweather without the boxing ability.
At the post-fight press conference in Vegas he had referred to his $100 million as “forever money”, which sounded like tempting fate, or maybe the ironic starting premise of his most self-destructive challenge. McGregor has a normal person’s attitude to money, which is that the point of having it is to spend it on stuff you want: the more you have, the more stuff you can blow it on. To rich people, money is an end in itself and the point of having it is to get more of it. Beyond a certain point, spending money starts to take a lot out of you. Spending the unspendable mountain of cash might turn out to be more dangerous than fighting your way to the top of the UFC.
He gave an interview in the Savoy cinema after his film premiere in November in which he didn’t disguise his own amazement at all the punishment he had just watched himself take. At that moment, you wondered how he could ever motivate himself to get back into the Octagon to face more savage fights for what now seem like minor league purses. When interviewer Andrew McGahon asked “what’s next”, he replied “right now I’m just enjoying me movie premiere.”
Everyone laughed, but he still needs to think of an answer to that question. He turns 30 next summer. For the last 10 years his gigantic energies have been channelled into the challenge of becoming the biggest star in the history of his sport. He needs a new dream to chase before his life turns into a clichéd morality fable about what can go wrong when your dreams come true.