Being a mental coach as well as a boxing enthusiast, I was quick to note when Conor McGregor references his emotions in a couple of his interviews over the course of fight week.
Amongst my sheer excitement at this fight being announced (I booked acommodation in the early hours, just minutes after Floyd Mayweather had confirmed the fight on his Twitter account), I was intrigued to observe the two fighters through their words, behaviour and body language when it came to conducting themselves during the pre-fight build-up.
We were treated to:
– The 4 stops on their press tour
– Their gym/media workouts
– All Access: Mayweather vs McGregor (4-part series documenting the two fighters)
– The ‘grand entrances’ outside the T-Mobile Arena during fight-week
– The weigh-in
And then, of course, the fight itself.
With this article being about Conor McGregor, that’s whom I’m going to focus on. Now, Conor’s backstory around his psyche is worthy of a good few posts in and of itself. Right now, I’m going to hone in on Conor and his pre-fight emotions.
Let’s rewind back to the press tour…
I wrote a dedicated post on the full tour here, and have summarised the 4-day tour, below:
First stop Los Angeles (Staples Center): with this being his first fight in boxing, and of this mangitude, Conor came into this first tour not knowing exactly how this would play out. Yet you wouldn’t have thought it… looking sharp and wearing a suit with stripes spelling “F*ck you” when you zoomed in close, McGregor looked right at home. He certainly started quicker out of the blogs than Floyd Mayweather, who tried to convey the air of a man who was non-plussed as he was subjected to McGregor’s rhetoric, but must have felt rattled if only slightly.
Next came Toronto (Staples Center), and Conor immediately vented his frustration at Showtime Sports turning off his mic during the LA tour, apparently for being too quick-off-the-mark and interrupting Floyd Mayweather’s performance.
Conor’s emotion was coming out. And it was here that he made his first prediction about knocking out Mayweather. It was also here that Floyd draped an Irish flag around him, and Conor in no uncertain terms told him to be careful… who knows what would have happened if Mayweather had taken it too far with that flag. One would be wise not to come between an Irishman and his beloved country, especially when that Irishman can crush you in an instant.
McGregor’s confidence and antics increased from tour to tour, and the support for him was overwhelming everywhere apart from the dud 3rd stop which was Brooklyn, NY; partly due to the fact that the conference got started so late, and the atmosphere had fizzled out before proceedings had begun.
London was a fitting final venue, the closest location to Ireland and the fans came in their masses. Conor’s emotions really were apparent here, they had been building all week, and at one point he tapped Mayweather’s ahead – going against the contract which stated that there was to be no contact between him and Mayweather whatsoever. Dana White later admitted that he gasped inside when this happened.
Being the final stop, and with his frustration and raw emotions building all week, McGregor went into full rhetoric swing in front of his fans, and at the fourth and final face-off he looked ready to go; Dana White, as the week had progressed, more prominently wedged himself in between Conor and Floyd, looking more and more concerned each time.
The Grand Entrance
Having flown into Vegas the day before, I was fortunate to attend both fighters’ next public displays following the press tour, the ‘Grand Entrance’ at the Toshiba Plaza, right in front of the T-Mobile Arena.
Having cottoned on to the fact that he was slowly getting under McGregor’s skin, or perhaps just doing it anyway, the Mayweather Camp met McGregor on a collision course as they left the Plaza, and Team McGregor entered. Marginally shaken, but not stirred, McGregor soon found his swagger and strode around the laid-out path in the Plaza, a route Mayweather hadn’t bothered with, much to the delight of all of the fans.
He described himself in his on-stage speech that followed as “Cool and cold, as always.”
By this point, I had realised that, whilst much of what we were seeing was for sheer performance- and entertainment-value, McGregor’s emotions were certainly closer to the fore, or at least more visible, than Mayweather’s.
And then came the weigh-in.
Conor McGregor walked onto stage with his entourage to his usual soundtrack, striding around as his music finished and Mayweather walked to the stage with his entourage, and looking ready to go. When it came to the face-off, McGregor let out his most animated tirade yet, eyes blazing, looking ready to go there and then. With cheers from the crowd as his tirade in Mayweather’s ended, he faced the crowd to their delight, and passionately beat his chest. Raw emotion. The crowd erupted. The most intense display of McGregor emotion we had seen thus far.
And, allowing us to entering his mind, these are the key words he uttered during an interview backstage at the T-Mobile Arena, live to millions around the world, on fight night:
“I let my emotions fly during the weigh-in. When it comes to fight night, it’s all business.”
Hence the stark contrast between the fired-up McGregor at the weigh-in, and the cool and composed one we saw suited and having his hands wrapped shortly before the big fight.
Note: this quote gives the general gist from memory, and is not a direct quote – I was unable to find any recorded clip of Conor’s interview.
Cool, calm, composed. This is McGregor’s game face. Similar to that of Rafa Nadal, who in his autobiography describes how his pre-Grandslam Final ritual involves him getting himself ready and shutting everything around him out. The difference being in tennis, of course, is that you haven’t had the huge press conferences, weigh-in and the accompanying crowds and pressure – before going into physical battle.
The emotions of Conor McGregor are intriguing, as well as how he utilises, taps into, and controls them as a fight approaches. He’s a man with emotions close to the fore, who appears to feed off of them and feel them rise up, feeding off the ardent crowd support he gets from his beloved Irish fans. Then, he zones in on fight night.
When one understands Conor McGregor and his emotions better, then we just might better understand who he is, and how he has achieved the extraordinary feats he has thus far achieved in his career, despite what the Mayweather result was.
PS. I was in Las Vegas for fight week – you can check out my full fight-week account here, including articles, video diaries, video footage and pictures
Plus: I have noticed similarities between Conor McGregor and Maria Sharapova… there’ll be an article on these two super-athletes coming v. soon.
Thursday 31st August, 2017