There was a time when the Irish weren’t too fond of the stereotype ‘the fighting Irish’. Ever since Katie Taylor’s monumental success in the 2012 London Olympics, however, Ireland once again become proud of the status and, since April of 2013, we have another reason to stand tall. That reason is Conor ‘Notorious’ McGregor.
Ryan Tubridy previously described the Crumlin man as the Muhammad Ali of Dublin, and VIP couldn’t agree more. From his dandy style to his exuberant confidence, Conor, simply put, has the X factor. We met up with the sexy sportsman and his gorgeous girlfriend Dee Devlin, to find out a little bit more.
Conor, tell us a little bit about your background.
I’m originally from Crumlin, Dublin. I lived there up until I was 17 and then moved to Lucan. I never really settled in Lucan, though. 17 is an awkward age: I had made all my friends at that stage, and the boxing and MMA gyms were back in Crumlin, so I was always going back there.
Where did your passion for the sport come from?
Self-potential has always been in my thoughts. Growing up, I always wanted to be a footballer, like most young boys. But as I grew up I fell out of love with football, and I also felt I needed to learn how to defend myself. I was around fourteen or fifteen when I started doing combat sports, and eventually I found mixed martial arts.
And you fell in love with it…so much so, that you quit your job…
Yeah. I was working as a plumber and then I just quit and decided that I was going to go for the mixed martial arts full-time, to chase the dream. I knew I didn’t want to be like the other guys on the building site, who were getting up early in the morning and working late at night. Labour work, you know, hard-hat work; that wasn’t for me.
How did your mam, Margaret, and dad, Tony, take your decision to quit work?
They found it tough at first. Plumbing was a good trade at the time; it was good money for a fully qualified plumber. They were so happy that I had a proper job, and then I just packed it up. They weren’t happy with that, but over time they saw the dedication I put in; they saw that I wasn’t going to stop, and that this was something I was going to chase down. Eventually, I won them over and they supported me fully.
Things have definitely worked out for you, Conor. They must be hugely proud…
Yeah, definitely. I look at them now, compared to the way they were, and I see a new lease of life in them. They see me doing something that I set out to do. Now, they’re the biggest fans of MMA and the UFC and they literally spend all day watching videos online, so it’s brilliant to have that. That fills me with joy.
You also have the support of your girlfriend Dee, who you’re pictured with today. How did you two meet?
I knew her a bit beforehand, but I think the first time I spoke to her properly was when I saw her in a nightclub. I asked her to come over and we just started chatting. She seemed like a nice girl, and I like good girls.
Was it an instant attraction for you, Dee?
I suppose it was! He’s very funny – he always keeps me entertained and makes me laugh. He was already training when I met him, so I really admired his dedication to that, too.
Do you ever feel second best to his training?
Oh, no! I would never consider it like that, and I’ve actually never really thought of it like that – it’s just something that he does. I go to work; he goes to training. His training is more intense and more of an everyday thing, though, whereas I can just shut off from work when I get home. He could be up at 4am, shadow boxing in the bedroom!
Conor, they say behind every great man is a greater woman. Is that true of your relationship?
Oh, one hundred percent. Every day, since I started out in this game, she’s supported me. She’d drive me to the gym, and she’d listen to all my dreams. Dee is a lifesaver for me. I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for her, and that’s for sure. I’m doing all of this for her.
Do you ever feel any guilt that you may not spend enough time with her?
We still do a lot together. We’ve a great relationship. It’s all good. She’s been living with me for a couple of years and it’s even better. Sometimes it’s tough but life is tough for everyone, and it will all be worth it in the end.
I’m doing this to secure my family’s future and Dee’s future. One day, I want myself and Dee to be able to chill on a beach and not have any worry in the world. That’s why I’m doing this. I want to be financially secure by the time I have kids. I’m not even thinking about kids yet…but when that happens, I want to be ready.
That’s a nice future ahead of you there, Dee. What do you think about that?
He’s always said that it was for us and our future, and that he’ll have us in the best of houses and the best of cars; I’ve always believed that! I always knew that this is where he would be. We believe in the ‘Law of Attraction’ and we’ve always believed that he would make it to the UFC one day. Now that he has, he’s proved me right. I’ve always supported him, so I’m glad that it’s come to fruition for him, and for us, really. We’re going to make a living out of this now and it’s great! It makes me go a bit gooey inside when he says that he’s working hard for me.
Is there a romantic side to him?
Emm, I suppose he is romantic…he has good intentions! He does surprise me with cooking, making healthy food for me, which is lovely!
Do you think you’re romantic, Conor?
I don’t know! Probably not. What is romantic?
Well, VIP thinks it’s very romantic that you say you’re doing all of this for Dee…
Damn straight! That’s romantic in itself; I’m putting my body on the line for my woman!
Does that ‘body on the line’ stuff ever concern you, Dee? That he might get hurt?
Aha! I’ve never really thought about that before! When I first met him, though, he didn’t have cauliflower ears, and I remember thinking: ‘Oh God, what if he gets cauliflower ears, that would be terrible’! He has them now and I don’t remember him without them!
Conor, do you ever worry about doing damage to yourself?
It’s not a worry because it’s not going to happen. I’m damn near impossible to hit, so those things don’t really cross my mind. I’m more worried about the other person, hoping he’s alright!
Physical training dominates your life. Tell us a bit about that dedication required…
I like to train three times a day, Monday to Friday. I still train on Sunday and Saturday, but it’s more chilled training, like going for a swim or a run. I have to do some form of physical exercise every day. I really couldn’t go a full day without doing some sort of training.
There has to be some mornings when you think to yourself: ‘I’d rather be doing anything else, right now, but training!’?
Definitely. Somedays I wake up and it’s a fight to go to the gym, but we’re all trying to make it in this game, so you have stick it out and you have to show up more than everyone else. That way, you become better than everyone else.
And that determination has certainly paid off…
It sure has. I’m leading the way. The other guys in the gym are after seeing what’s happened for me and now everyone is going that extra bit harder; there’s a good vibe going on at the moment.
Do you consider yourself a bit of a role model?
Ah, I don’t know about that! I just show up at the gym and do my thing and if people see that, and that spurs them on, then that’s brilliant. I’m only 24 though – I don’t want to be anyone’s role model!
You brought that hardcore training to your debut UFC fight in Sweden, this April. Describe your mindset before and during a fight.
I try to keep a calm mind. You can’t be emotional in there. If you let emotions get in the way, they’ll cloud your reaction, so you need to be emotion-free in combat. Some people let competition swallow them up. Rather than let it swallow me, I swallow it. I let it go, I let it flow, and I trust that what I’ve been doing is going to pay off. And it has; it has all paid off.
Do you have any rituals, pre-match, like standing in front of the mirror, bare-chested (we’ve a vivid imagination), psyching yourself up?
I don’t have anything like that. Some people have superstitions and rituals they like to do, but to me superstition is just another word for fear. I can wear anything and I can do anything before I get into the cage and it makes no difference to me. Again, I keep my mind free – no emotions.
Would you consider yourself – how can we put this – cocky?
Yeah I’d agree with that description. Most certainly!
Is that type of confidence necessary for success?
When you’re in the fight business, you’re constantly trying to promote yourself. If you talk the talk and walk the walk, it makes people interested in you. If they’re interested in you, they’ll pay to watch you, win or lose. As UFC matches operate on a Pay-Per-View basis, the more people that are interested, the more money that goes into my back pocket. So yeah, I’m cocky; I’m going to whoop everyone’s ass! I’m going right to the top and there’s no stopping me!
Ryan Tubridy said that if Muhammad Ali came from Dublin, he’d be you. What did you think of that?
Yeah, that was brilliant. Muhammad Ali is a legend. I grew up watching him, I’m inspired by him. He’s a funny man, a stylish man, and that was brilliant that Ryan said that.
VIP thinks you’re quite like Chris Eubank, style-wise. Have you ever been told that before?
I think you’re the first! I’ll take that! The strut on Eubank! Listen, if you had a cane and a monocle at this photoshoot, I would have rocked that out as well. That’s for the next issue, yeah?!
Definitely, Conor. Until then, just don’t forget about us when you take over the world, okay?
Never! I’m from Ireland, and I’m not going anywhere; people need to get used to this.