While “I’m retiring” – Conor McGregor probably would’ve been an eye-grabbing headline three days ago prior to the now famous “Hey guys quick announcement” tweet, that’s not what this here is. This is a frustrated regurgitation of feelings after having a little over than 24 hours to digest.
If that sentence were describing my true physical state instead of being an attempt at description through metaphors, then I would probably have food poisoning; in, many ways I feel like I actually do. This is not an analysis. This is not an impartial review. This is a very biased, very emotional, very personal reaction.
In case you have not heard: the most prolific, and polarizing, athlete in combat sports history announced his retirement from “Mixed Martial Art” on March 26th, 2019 for the second time on Twitter. This retirement seems in many ways to have been a long time coming, and in many ways far too soon. Regardless of its timing; it is here, and I finally know what to do with it.
I’m retiring Conor McGregor. I’m frustrated. I’m tired. I’m done. I cannot continue in this line of work of being an unapologetic Conor supporter. I try not to live a life where I do not take half measures or be a bandwagon, fair weather, pink hat-wearing fan, so I’m making the finite decision of proclaiming I’m done. While I don’t think this decision means much in the grand scheme of your life or the world, it means quite a bit to me.
Writing this provides a source of release for me that I can only get from vocalizing this uninterrupted to my roommate, which I cannot do because she will interrupt me and ask me to stop talking and clean the cat box like she asked me to do last night. Having you read this provides that it is out in the world, witnessed by others, and therefore real. Thank you for coming to my retirement.
I am incredibly fortunate in being able to say that my father is one of my greatest influences in life. He shaped and molded me for better and for worse my entire life, and continues to do so today. One of his more unfortunate influences was the love of sports and competition.
Some of my earliest memories with him are at sporting events and having him explain not the premise of the game, but the intricacies of it: The way a coach interacted with his player, the way a catcher commanded the field, the way an individual carried themselves. My success in sports mattered so little in comparison to my comprehension and representation of these intricacies.
Leadership, respect, and most importantly determination became more important to me than goals, points or wins, at a very young age. Because of this I started to look for these characteristics in athletes to motivate myself. I don’t think I consciously did this at 6-7 years old, but when I found someone that I thought personified these traits I held on. I put up posters, bought jerseys and, most importantly, drew inspiration from them. Looking back, I’m sure that this practice had a significant impact on my early development, and then I stopped.
There is a point in life that no one tells you about: the point where it stops being cool to look up to an athlete. It becomes a point of ridicule to draw inspiration from someone who plays a sport for a living. Sure, having a Michael Jordan poster in your dorm room might’ve been cool in the same way the Dave Matthews poster next to it was, but you were guaranteed to get a ribbing from someone if you said, “I look at MJ there whenever I need the motivation to persevere.” That point in life came right around the time I stopped playing sports competitively. Until recently, I never knew how important both having inspiration and being inspired are.
Maybe it’s because those who inspired you no longer compete themselves. Maybe it’s because you’re now either the same age or older than those now competing. Maybe its because you think you’re an adult now, you don’t need inspiration, you just need to live. Frankly I don’t know.
What I do know is that I found myself in a place I didn’t know existed in the fall of 2014: Birmingham, Alabama. Yeah, I knew Birmingham existed, but I never knew it would exist for me. I found myself living with my parents, five-ish months out of college, not doing what I had planned to be doing with my life due to my own lack of preparation and commitment, no job, and in a relationship where both parties involved were wasting one another’s time for the sake of nostalgia. While this place certainly is not dark in comparison, it was pretty dark for me. I had no inspiration, no passion, no direction and a lot of time in my own mind. Enter Conor McGregor.
The 25-year-old Irish phenom had two fights at that point in the UFC: Beating the young star Max Holloway on one leg just over a year before, returning to dominate a seasoned veteran in Diego Brandão earlier that summer. Conor was making his press rounds for his upcoming fight against fellow rising star Dustin Poirier.
I was already a dedicated MMA fan at this point in my life, and I had heard rumblings of Conor before this fight. His record in Europe was nothing short of impressive, winning both the featherweight and lightweight belts with the Cage Warriors promotion before being signed by the UFC. He was flashy, brash, incredibly talented, and absolutely the last person in the world I thought I would get my life together.
When I heard Conor speak it was the closest thing I had ever been to being “mesmerized.” There was something different about not what he said, but where it was coming from. There was a sense of self belief that transcended any other that I had ever seen.
It was entertaining, it was intoxicating, and it was motivating. I heard him make a Mystic Mac prediction for the first time in this press run. He predicted that he would knock out Dustin Poirier in the first round. He did, and I was hooked. Any time he spoke, I listened, and absorbed.
I read everything I could about him and watched old interviews from his Cage Warriors days, as well as all his old fights. “Something special” gets thrown around in the sports world for something like an impressive combine performance these days but that’s what Conor was. He had staying power. He had power to influence.
For the next two years, I, along with the rest of the world, watched Conor’s meteoric rise to success in MMA and the world. We saw him fight three times in 2015, and three more in 2016. We saw him win two championships, fight in three weight classes, win, lose and avenge. All while constantly proclaiming his unwavering self-belief and exhibiting his unmatched skill. It truly was incredible, and it truly changed my life.
Largely in part to the motivation I got from Conor’s plumber turned champ-champ, welfare to wealthy story, I made significant strides in my own life. I started to have drive again, to start working towards something.
I started caring about my mental health, my physical health, my relationships, my dreams, and without this period in my life, I would not be the happy, loving and loved, marginally successful person I am today. Conor helped me turn my life around, and I would forever be on his side. Happy every after.
Except, we are humans, and life is life, and things change. People change. Motivations change. I don’t think I need to summarize every controversial Conor moment in the last three years, as they have all been well-publicized. There became a point where Conor fans needed to stop being fans and start being apologists. I did that. In each instance, when looked at individually, there was always an explanation to me.
Until recently, I never looked at the collection of events, the “whole picture.” The whole picture is that fame and success time and time again changes folks for the worst. It seems there is this ebb and flow of acceptance of public figures by the public, and Conor has fallen victim to that.
There is a point, however, where hurled Monster cans at an opponent’s teammates becomes a hurled dolly at a bus of innocent people. Three fights a year become none. Predictions of knockouts become not-so-veiled racist digs. A flashy lifestyle becomes accusations of infidelity and assault. Fans become apologists; apologists become sympathizers. That is not a transition I am prepared to make.
The same man who taught me to pay attention to the intricacies of competition and the characteristics of the competitors also taught me that you are often judged for the company you keep and above all; respect for women.
The current investigation first whispered, about in the second week of January and, on Tuesday, reported by the New York Times, is the catalyst for this whole thing. I do not know details, and neither do you. I do not know the truth, and neither do you.
I do, however, know that the speculation, the investigation and the defense of sexual assault is within itself a proclamation of character, a character that requires one to thoroughly examine their relationship with it as a means to determine if there is any motivation or any inspiration left to derive from them.
This is not a “White Knight” proclamation. This a long-overdue personal processing of this situation. Conor McGregor has provided so much for me as a MMA fan and as a person. But I don’t believe he has anything more for me.
MMA, and the UFC in particular, has arguably the deepest talent pool it has ever had. More personality, more skill, more potential across every weight class and both genders than ever previously seen before. The UFC no longer needs a Brock, a Rhonda or a Conor. They have the UFC. I have found a way in life. I have dreams, I have determination, I have health and I have happiness. While I am not closed off to inspiration as I once was, I am no longer in need of it.
I am retiring Conor McGregor. I wish him all the best in whatever he chooses to pursue. I truly mean that, because pending current allegations, I believe he deserves it. Regardless of whether it be whiskey, wrestling, suits, MMA or true retirement; I hope he finds the man that got him to this point.