Conor McGregor, the Irish darling of mixed martial arts, is a bigot. Dig a little bit, and you’ll see it for yourself. Is he entertaining? Yes. Is he a gifted self-promoter? Absolutely. Is he a skilled, hard-working fighter for the UFC? For sure. And because of his popularity, fans and brands alike are willing to look past the fact that he is the closest thing to Steve Bannon and Breitbart the fight game has seen in our lifetime.
I want to like Conor McGregor. Dude has guts. He doesn’t duck or dodge any challenge in the ring. A few years ago he was surviving week to week off of welfare checks. This August, in what will likely be the most viewed, highest grossing pay-per-view fight of all time, he will reportedly take home over $100 million in a boxing match against Floyd Mayweather – who has his own problems with bigotry and abuse towards women. I could do a whole commentary on Floyd’s problems, but those commentaries have already been done. Floyd’s problems are well known. Conor’s been given a pass.
Fighters say a lot of foolishness when promoting their matches. Nowadays, because many of the top fighters get a slice of the pay-per-view revenue, they’ll say or do almost anything to get people to watch. This past weekend, boxers Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev had a rematch. In promoting the fight, Kovalev, a white man from Russia, did a video mocking Ward, a black man from the Bay Area of California, in which Kovalev repeatedly used the n-word and other slurs, pretending to be Ward. Except Ward is a devout Christian and about as upstanding as man as you’ll ever see in the sport and never uses those words. It wasn’t Kovalev’s first time resorting to racism in promoting a fight. In 2015, Kovalev posted racist tweets online comparing the fighter Adonis Stevenson, a black man, to a gorilla.
But I’m not sure any fighter, in boxing or MMA, has been a more consistently flagrant bigot, and been given as much of a pass, as Conor McGregor. See, I don’t think Kovalev or McGregor are faking their bigotry come fight time – I think it’s likely the most sincere representation of who they truly are.
Leading up to his match against Brazilian fighter Jose Aldo, McGregor repeatedly resorted to disgustingly bigoted attacks. First, in a reference to colonialism, McGregor said, “if this was a different time, I would invade his favela on horseback and kill anyone that was not fit to work.” That’s sick! Then McGregor said “What I really want to do is turn his favela into a Reebok sweatshop.” Later, in an apparent joke targeting Latinos, McGregor said of Aldo, “I think I’m going to have him come and clean up my airplane.”
Any one of those comments should have been enough to have every mainstream company he works with drop his endorsements. Being a boxer is not a license for bigotry without consequence.
McGregor started his bigoted tirades right back up again in his lead ups to his fights against Nate Diaz. First, using an old slur against Latinos, he called Nick and Nate Diaz “cockroaches.” Then McGregor started using tired bigoted stereotypes comparing Nate Diaz to “a little Cholo gangster from the hood,” and calling his family “ese’s.”
My best guess is that McGregor will do the same thing in his lead up to his fight against Mayweather. He can’t help himself. Bigotry rolls right off of his tongue. What’s sad is that none of this is remotely necessary for him. McGregor would be huge without it. And that’s the rub – McGregor isn’t being a bigot for any reason other than the fact that it comes easy for him and doesn’t really offend his boss or his white fan base.
Dana White, the longtime President of the UFC, not only endorsed Donald Trump for President of the United States, he spoke for him at the Republican National Convention and has been a Trump apologist since the election – never once calling Trump out for his bigoted policies, but just insisting that he’s a “good guy” because of how nicely Trump has treated him personally.
So, of course Dana White hasn’t called out McGregor for his bigotry. As long as you don’t affect White’s bottom line, it appears he’s fully willing to look the other way. It reminds me of how Trump appears fully willing to look past hate crimes and terrorist attacks by white men as long as they continue to back him at every turn.
In a day and age where we need principled people to speak out on racism, bigotry, and discrimination – Conor McGregor does the exact opposite – instead mainstreaming those things without consequence. McGregor is far from being the person we need in 2017, but it’s no accident he blew up when he did. Bigotry seems to opening up doors nowadays.
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