Not so long ago, UFC star Conor McGregor was working as an apprentice electrician and relying on government benefits while living in a socio-economically deprived suburb of the Republic of Ireland’s capital.
How times have changed. These days it’s all about the sharp suits, the coiffured hairstyle, and a body adorned with more artwork than the halls of many a small gallery. McGregor’s journey to the world of celebrity is as difficult to ignore as the man himself.
Not forgeting that he’s now worth millions of dollars too. But as his nickname – “Notorious” – suggests, McGregor is no angel.
On Friday, the New York Police department confirmed that McGregor had been charged with three counts of assault and one count of criminal mischief after attacking a busload of UFC fighters at a media event on Thursday.
McGregor allegedly threw something through the window of a minibus, injuring a passenger, according to an NYPD source with knowledge of the event.
The incident came ahead of a weekend where McGregor will be stripped of his lightweight title because of his inactivity within UFC having not fought since 2016.
Suddenly, this weekend’s UFC lightweight title fight appears to be providing the sideshow with McGregor once again taking center stage.
That’s not good news for the UFC business model, especially as interest in the sport is arguably so intertwined with the charismatic McGregor.
“Do you want to be in business with Conor McGregor right now? You want to chase this guy around for interviews and buy his fights? Do you?” questioned UFC president Dana White in an interview with ESPN.
“I don’t think anybody in my opinion is going to want him right now. Now I think everybody is going to be pretty disgusted with Conor McGregor right now.”
White then added: “This was a real bad career move for him.”
If McGregor has come a long way in a short space of time, perhaps his mother, Margaret, best called her son’s career before anyone else, once describing him as being “born with his fists clenched.”
“I’m always thinking about fighting,” McGregor told CNN last August before his multi-million boxing bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr.
“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 grew up in Crumlin, a working class suburb of Dublin.
He once recalled that grenades would be posted through letterboxes as drug dealing and gang culture began to take over the area, though that depiction has been challenged.
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 added.
McGregor’s profile rocketed ahead of his bout with Mayweather in August 2017.
With the PR machine in overdrive, both men traded barbs during a promotional tour which was described as a farce and a circus.
McGregor faced accusations of racism after telling Mayweather to “Dance for me, boy!” when the American was shadowboxing.
“If anyone was offended, of course I apologize,” McGregor said in the aftermath of his comment.
The UFC star was beaten in the 10th round, going further than many had expected against a fighter who notched up his 50th victory to take his record to 50-0.
McGregor has not fought since but has rarely stayed out of the news and in November 2017 he was fined by an Irish judge for speeding in Dublin after being clocked driving at 158kph.
Bad week for UFC
McGregor’s arrest was the latest blow during a big week for the sport ahead of UFC 223.
On Friday, just a day before the expected big clash for the lightweight title, Max Holloway tweeted that he had been forced to withdraw from his fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Featherweight champion Holloway had only just stepped in to face Nurmagomedov. after injury ruled out Tony Ferguson.
The news comes after two athletes who were injured in the clashes on Thursday have been pulled from this weekend’s event.
Michael Chiesa, a lightweight, received several facial cuts and was deemed unfit to fight.
Flyweight Ray Borg has also been withdrawn due to multiple corneal abrasions.
UFC also confirmed that the featherweight clash between Artem Lobov and Alex Caceres was also withdrawn because of the Russian-born fighter’s involvement in the incident.
CNN’s Don Riddell and Matias Grez contributed to this report.