Conor McGregor: ‘Boxing will look amazing with its new king’
Shades on, slouched casually in his chair, Conor McGregor doesn’t exude the air of a man about to enter a fight most people expect him to lose.
One bookmaker is so sure of a Mayweather victory it’s already paid out more than $320,000 to punters who had backed the American to win Saturday’s bout in Las Vegas.
Not that McGregor is listening to the bookies or the naysayers.
“You know, I am a multiple-time, multiple-weight free fighting world champion,” McGregor told CNN’s Don Riddell in one, confident breath.
“I come from a ruthless game, a ruthless, ruthless business. Not only do I come from it, I own it.
“People can say what they want … but boxing will look amazing with its new king.”
There’s a joke that McGregor didn’t “just kiss the Blarney Stone, he swallowed it,” though his life story provides plenty of material to wax lyrical about.
His transformation from an apprentice plumber in the Irish capital, signing on for weekly dole payments, to the multimillionaire, worldwide superstar epitomizes the American dream.
McGregor’s journey to Las Vegas began in Crumlin, a quiet suburb on the Southside of the River Liffey which splits Dublin in half.
Growing up, drug dealing and gang culture began to impact on what was once a respected working-class area. McGregor once recalled that grenades would be posted through letterboxes, though the depiction of his life in Crumlin has been challenged.
24/7 fighting mindset
McGregor’s mother, Margaret, perhaps predicted her son’s career before anyone else, once describing him as being “born with his fists clenched.”
“I’m always thinking about fighting,” McGregor says with a casual half smirk. “It’s just in me. I cannot stop thinking about it.
“Certain sequences, certain movements, certain ways to prepare. It’s a 24/7 mindset. That mindset has got me to where I am today.”
McGregor attributes much of his success to his background and upbringing, but also to the fierce bond he feels with his family name.
“The McGregor name is historic when it comes to combat,” he says proudly. “Way back, study my family’s name, study my family’s heritage. We were a feared clan.
“At one stage, it was punishable by death to have the surname McGregor. It’s in my blood to fight — and that’s it. It’s what my ancestors have been doing long before me,” he says, elongating the vowel in ‘long.’
The build up to the fight and international promotional tour — McGregor and Mayweather traveled to a number of North American cities and London — has been described as both a farce and a circus.
The pair traded insults at an alarming rate, with some of the comments deemed racist, others homophobic.
The one which drew most criticism was McGregor telling Mayweather to “Dance for me, boy!” when the American was shadowboxing.
“If anyone was offended, of course I apologize,” McGregor says with sincerity. “I am human at the end of the day. I didn’t … one of them was like … the word ‘boy,'” he continued, somewhat uncomfortably.
“I didn’t even know ‘boy’ was a term. Look, it’s a mad game, it’s a mad business. All I can be is apologetic if anyone was offended. I know who I am, my people know who I am.
“I hope the people watching can put themselves in my shoes and understand where I was coming from. There was no malice or anything like that meant at all.
“This build up has been crazy from my side and his side and we’ve both slipped up a few times. We are human. There’s so much on the line, we are about to fight and take each other out.”
McGregor is set to make more money from Saturday’s fight in Las Vegas than he has done throughout his entire UFC career.
Having come from a working-class background, McGregor retains a refreshing awareness about the importance of money that other multimillionaire sports stars have arguably lost.
The 29-year-old readily admits the cash — and the security it brings his family — is at the forefront on his mind, but he would turn it all down for a victory on Saturday.
“Money is great. Don’t get me wrong, money is very close in my thoughts constantly,” McGregor says. “It’s easy for me to say that now in the position that I’m in.
“I’m in this position where my money is up here,” he says, raising his hand high above his head. “And it’s always up there in that forever money zone.
“So it’s easy for me to say ‘Hey, money is not this and that,’ because a lot of people struggle and a lot of stress in peoples’ lives is due to financial worry.
“I’m just grateful to be in the position that I’m in. I worked very hard to live this life and to give this life to my family. But I’m a competitor and the victory will be sweeter than any amount of money.”
Mayweather’s boxing pedigree over McGregor is unquestionable.
The only lingering doubt, if any, remains his age. Having turned 40 this year — two years since his last fight — the legs may not possess the same spring, the jabs may not be as sharp as they once were.
Mayweather, however, scoffs at the notion that his aging limbs will have any influence on the outcome of the fight.
“It’s been a good training camp, I feel good,” he told CNN.
Questions also remain surrounding the legitimacy of the fight, but Mayweather is adamant the pair are just two athletes going toe-to-toe.
“I mean, he’s a real fighter and I’m a real fighter. I’ve been fighting, you know, not just in my professional career but, total years, since 1987 when I had my first fight,” said Mayweather.
“And he’s been fighting since he was 12 and he’s now 29, so we’re both official. We’re both real fighters.
“I’m just happy that I can give the people one last big fight.”
So often cast as the villain throughout his career, Mayweather’s opponent this time has done little to endear himself to the public.
However, Mayweather believes the pre-fight slanging match will have no bearing on the fight and is confident of extending his record to 50-0.
“You know, I go out there and do what I do,” he says coolly. “I’ve been here before with many different fighters, many different styles, there have been plenty of guys that have talked a lot of trash.
“But when it’s all said and done, I came out victorious.
“If a certain individual is on the right side, somebody has to be on the left side and what I’ve always said it this. Whether you do like me or whether you don’t like me, you’re gonna pay to watch me.”