Woe betide the individual who tries to sit on the fence when it comes to Conor McGregor. The good old Irish tradition of showing apathy in the face of enthusiasm has been thrown out the window. You hate him or you love him. Even if you're not inclined to take a side, you don't really have a choice.
We spoke to Andrew McGahon of SevereMMA on what next for McGregor on our daily sports podcast, The Racket:
The saturation of his beaming smile/smug face (delete as applicable) onto your Facebook timeline or Twitter feed means that you're forced to take a side. Ignorance is not an option and now Nate Diaz drove the wedge between the increasingly bitter factions even deeper with his unlikely victory.
Adding to all this is the fact that McGregor is now a global phenomenon. The international media response to McGregor's loss has been just as ferocious as it has at home and once again, the great schism of our times is also being played out in the world's media You have the defenders celebrating his 'bravery' and you have detractors highlighting his technical failings and the sheer arrogance of thinking that weight classes are there to be laughed at. Both are valid points when sensibly argued.
USA Today's clickbait wing For The Win reached a new low when it tried to win over the anti-McGregor crowd with their bluntly-titled 'Conor McGregor isn’t a great UFC fighter and never has been'.
Beneath that garish headline, author Simon Samano (who did not reply to our interview requests) outlines in four simple points why McGregor's status as the face of MMA was nothing but smoke and mirrors sitting on a cloud of hot air .
We're paraphrasing here but essentially the points are:
- He beat no one before getting a shot at the title.
- The UFC were fooled by the hype and massaged his ego.
- The Chad Mendes win doesn't count because he (Mendes) barely had time to prepare.
- The win against Aldo was lucky.
Perhaps you're one of those who agrees with Samano but an awful lot of the response - largely from people who've been covering MMA for a long time - has been rather negative.
— Faiz Khan (@faizkhan_asu) March 8, 2016
— caposa (@GrabakaHitman) March 7, 2016
More of this knee-jerk garbage. You make this call before a fight, not after a fight. https://t.co/HatQptldZA
— Gavan Casey (@GavanCasey) March 7, 2016
Making allowances for the terrible headlining of Samano's piece, one point needs to be made about the coverage of McGregor on this island. It's not national betrayal for an online Irish publication to criticise McGregor.
Over the past couple of years, media outlets who have happily covered all things McGregor (and we very much include ourselves in that) have been criticised, perfectly reasonably at times, for buying into the hype too much.
Any sense of questioning the hype was put to one side and it was all lapped up in an incessant race to see who could 'climb furthest up McGregor's hole' to borrow a phrase that's been used countless times. And there's plenty of merit to that criticism. Everyone covering McGregor needs to take a step back at times and think about who's controlling the narrative.
Dana White and co. are nothing if not masters in how to get the fans to skip to their beat. The fights may not be scripted but the WWE's promotional playbook has certainly been borrowed from time to time when it comes to selling 'the product'.
Since the dawn of McGregor mania, we've sat at Zuffa's (the UFC's controlling company) feet and happily peddled their product. The media benefits, (some of) the fighters benefit and those at the top really benefit but, in the case of McGregor, it pissed an awful a lot of people off. From the outset, there was a significant proportion of the Irish sporting public who wanted nothing to do with it whatsoever. Any glimpse of McGregor brought about the kind of ire usually reserved for our greatest enemies.
The mere act of reporting on McGregor over the past year has ensured that we're often accused of going too easy on McGregor's antics. 'Conorsballs.ie' is one act of defiance that has been mentioned in the comment section of one or two Facebook posts about the Dubliner. Fair enough.
But, somewhat entertainingly, the criticism has changed in the past 48 hours. Since Sunday, much of the criticism that we've seen has not been from those who are sick to death at the sight of him, it's from those who are dying to have a whinge about how everything we do is looking at McGregor from a negative point of view. It's not.
The speed at which the persecution complex came into play was incredibly impressive. Where once the 'McGregor wankfest' was the main cause for concern, it's now the speed at which we've changed our tune and are dancing on the grave of McGregor's career. In reality, absolutely nothing has changed.
When the 'wankfest' was in full flow, we tried to report on McGregor with a bit of balance. Now that he's lost, the slant of the reporting has not changed one iota. Criticising the media for choosing to spend too much time reporting on him is fair enough. But criticising the media for not sharing your own biases on the man is simply misguided.
Conor McGregor has suffered his first defeat in the UFC. Now do what the man himself is going to do and get over it. We'll continue to cover his career as we always have.