Are You Not Entertained?
GQ Style|Spring 2017

Last year, the swaggering former plumber Conor McGregor became the first UFC FIGHTER to hold two belts at once. The thrilling brutality of his knockouts— along with his notorious trash talk and lavish tastes— has made him into a phenomenon, THE RARE ATHLETE WHO IS BIGGER THAN HIS SPORT. We caught up with McGregor and met a man at war: with his league, with Floyd Mayweather, and, most of all, with himself.

Zach Baron

Yesterday, Conor McGregor spent $27,000 at a Dolce & Gabbana store in Los Angeles, and then he did what he usually does after he spends $27,000 somewhere: He went for coffee, to give the store time to pack up all the things he just bought. “That’s a common occurrence for me nowadays,” he says. His handlers and his friends have grown used to the waiting. Spending that much money, they’ve learned, requires patience.

So anyway, he’s waiting, and then he gets a call from the store, and then another call, because the overwhelmed sales staff keep finding stuff in the pile that they forgot to add to the bill—a pair of shoes, a pocket square—and now they keep sheepishly calling back to ask if they can run Conor’s card again. Now, I don’t know Conor McGregor super well yet—we’ve only just met when he tells me this story—but my advice to the luxury-goods salespeople of America and Europe would be: Don’t do this. McGregor’s chosen method of communication does not involve the shrill international tone of disappointed privilege. He is not going to ask to speak to a manager. “I break orbital bones,” he says, trying to explain to me what he’s talking about, rolling the word “orbital” around in his mouth like a particularly zesty lozenge. Like it’s the next county over from Crumlin, the unlovely Irish suburb he grew up in. “I’m dropping $27,000. It’s about my eighth time in the last week. And you can’t drop, like, a pocket square in? Are you fucking serious?!” He’s not looking for anything for free, he says. Just a measure of respect.

Conor McGregor may be rich now, but he still fights for a living. More than fights, actually; he carries his league, the UFC, on his back in the way Ronda Rousey used to do, before she got knocked out for the first time and took a year to recover from it. In her absence—a matter of months, really—McGregor became a mainstream sensation, and the UFC sold for $4.2 billion. How much of that value is attributable to him is a question he asks himself all the time. His scant ten UFC bouts over four years (nine wins, most of them by marvelously precise knockout, and one loss, to a guy he beat in his very next fight) have awakened hundreds of thousands if not millions of people to the savage appeal of mixed martial arts. Someday he may allow himself to acquire a cuddly nouveau riche veneer and go to Aspen or Davos, but right now his civilian life as he describes it is drinking lots of tequila, wearing beautiful mustard yellow Gucci turtlenecks, and going on shopping sprees with the money he’s earned from turning dangerous men into unconscious boys.

He’s never alone and rarely at rest. He chooses to be surrounded—by his agent’s assistant, two security guys, a cameraman, his tattooed buddy Charlie, some indistinct number of cheerful, foulmouthed Irish dudes doing nothing in particular. He can be found at the center of it all, ricocheting around like an agitated molecule. He seems to pogo a bit when he walks. His sharp chin precedes him. His beard looks soft and downy, like something you might die trying to touch. His nose has a little scar-tissue salt flat at the bridge. He has a disproportionately huge ass, by design I guess. Like a built-in power source.

He travels by convoy. He turns parking lots into acid trips: There’s a green Lamborghini, crouched low like a prayer; a dove gray RollsRoyce, top down, leather interior as orange as a Florida swamp guide, a burly meteor at rest; a black Dodge Challenger, because muscle cars; a big black Escalade. A fleet like a man-child’s dream of success. Like Michael Bay was right about the world.

Right now the sun is setting, the winter light pale and washed-out, and he’s inside a big warehouse in downtown Los Angeles, getting his photo taken. It’s dark by the time he and his friends pour back outside. Car keys are distributed at random, by no recognizable logic at all. Charlie ends up in the Lambo but can’t even find the switch for the headlights. He keeps asking if anyone knows where it is. McGregor and I wind up in the backseat of the Rolls, a cozy little biosphere. One of the security guys, big and silent and obliging, is at the wheel. Conor fidgets, leans in, leans out, makes intense eye contact.

He shows me pictures of some favorite recent outfits on his phone. For a while he was into elaborate tailoring; now it’s pristine sneakers and luxuriously casual knits, minks, brash but accommodating fabrics. He talks about how Ireland is full of mini-McGregors these days, swarms of young men in beards and waistcoats, dressed beautifully—dressed like him—looking for ugly fights. “They all want to be me a little. That’s a Drake line. All them boys want to be me a little. And it’s true as fuck.”

How do you feel about that?

“I mean, I don’t blame them. If I wasn’t me, I’d want to be me, too.”

He says he’s been working like a mother fucker all week. “This is a $2 million trip for me. One week, 2 million.” He’s earned a break. A rest. That’s why we’re headed out to Malibu now, where he’s rented a giant stone house by the sea. “I’m finished.” His only goal is to relax. “Maybe I’ll search for Khloé’s big fat ass—she’s been floating around Malibu. I don’t give a fuck about them. I just like to see them in the flesh.”

You mean…the Kardashians?

“Yeah, just see what the big fat asses on them look like.”

Just to…admire them from a distance?

“Not about admiring. Admire? Never. What’s the saying? Never put the pussy on a pedestal, my friend. I just want to see it. I want to see them.”

He was tired from having his photo taken earlier, and now he’s waking up again. A mischievous glint in his eye. He was out too late last night. Being out in public is fun, he says, until people get too close. “People think I’m a celebrity. I’m not a celebrity. I break people’s faces for money and bounce,” he says. The Rolls floats west.

He turns to me, suddenly, as if he’s just realized something. “You know what? I like everything we’re talking about here,” he says. He’s enjoying our conversation. He feels comfortable. “But I must get clearance on the article before it goes out. You understand what I’m saying?”

I do. But clearance is not something we give. GQ Style policy. I clear my throat. His face darkens. I’ve seen this expression before, never imagined I’d ever be on the receiving end of it.

“I’ll throw you out onto the motorway right now and run this car over you,” he says, looking straight at me.

I stammer. Maybe his people could talk to my people, get this cleared up?

A long pause.

“That’s okay. That’s okay.” Menace gone from his face like it was never there. A little grin, even. “Don’t worry about it. You were almost gonna get thrown out of the car there on the motorway.”

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