From the fighting pride of Ireland to MMA’s Jekyll and Hyde: Why Dublin started turning its back on Conor McGregor | Since earning $100 million from fighting Floyd Mayweather, Conor McGregor has shown the world the two sides of his personality.

From the fighting pride of Ireland to MMA’s Jekyll and Hyde: Why Dublin started turning its back on Conor McGregor

From the fighting pride of Ireland to MMA’s Jekyll and Hyde: Why Dublin started turning its back on Conor McGregor

From the fighting pride of Ireland to MMA’s Jekyll and Hyde: Why Dublin started turning its back on Conor McGregor

From the fighting pride of Ireland to MMA’s Jekyll and Hyde: Why Dublin started turning its back on Conor McGregor

From the fighting pride of Ireland to MMA’s Jekyll and Hyde: Why Dublin started turning its back on Conor McGregor

From the fighting pride of Ireland to MMA’s Jekyll and Hyde: Why Dublin started turning its back on Conor McGregor
From the fighting pride of Ireland to MMA’s Jekyll and Hyde: Why Dublin started turning its back on Conor McGregor
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Conor McGregor.
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Conor McGregor.
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Photo by Harry How/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
  • After a pattern of violent incidents in 2018 and 2019, Dublin MMA fans began to turn against Conor McGregor.
  • The New York Times also reported two separate sexual assault allegations against McGregor last year, which he denies. “Guys, I have done nothing wrong,” he told the Las Vegas media this week.
  • McGregor is in Vegas for his comeback fight – a non-title welterweight clash with Donald Cerrone on Saturday.
  • Should he win, in style, he may reclaim the love of fans who have deserted him.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

LAS VEGAS – Conor McGregor, once the pride of Ireland, has become UFC’s Jekyll and Hyde.

McGregor, often given the moniker “Notorious,” returns to mixed martial arts at the UFC 246 event in Las Vegas on Saturday, taking on Donald Cerrone.

It will be his first bout since a heavy, fourth round submission defeat to Khabib Nurmagomedov 15 months ago.

McGregor has not celebrated victory since 2016, when he was at the peak of his powers having dominated Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205, becoming the UFC’s first ever champion in two weight classes at once.

His rise to the summit of MMA matched his soaring popularity, as fans around the world were beguiled by his magnetic charm, searing put-downs, and infectious laugh.

His rise was fun. It transcended the sport. They wanted to watch him say, ‘Who the f— is that guy?” just as much as they wanted to see him clobber the snot out of somebody.

He predicted what round he’d knock someone out in, and then did it.

The build-up to his 2017 fight with Floyd Mayweather had a feel-good vibe even though it was clear he was never going to win.

But that did not stop ukelele artist Mick Konstantin writing a catchy viral song about how many from Ireland felt at the time in 2017.

It mimicked McGregor’s battle cries that the Irish were coming, that the double champion does what he wants, and that Mayweather was old, small, and would do feck all.

McGregor lost to Mayweather, of course, a resounding 10th round defeat in which he was stopped on his feet after being outclassed by a once-masterful boxer. He partied afterward as if he had won. He had, really. He had financially hit the jackpot.

McGregor partied at the Encore Beach Club in the Wynn, Las Vegas, after losing to Floyd Mayweather.

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McGregor partied at the Encore Beach Club in the Wynn, Las Vegas, after losing to Floyd Mayweather.
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Photo by David Becker/Getty Images for Wynn Nightlife

That loss was not what changed McGregor. After all, he had been beaten before. What changed him was the money.

Just like the serum that saw Dr. Henry Jekyll transition into his alter ego Edward Hyde, it was the $100 million he received for losing to Mayweather that appears to have brought darker elements within McGregor to the fore.

In the months following the fight, he threw a metal dolly at a bus, smashing a window and injuring UFC athletes. He snatched a phone from a fan’s hand then stomped on it, and threw a punch at an older man in a Dublin pub because he refused a measure of the fighter’s Proper no. Twelve whiskey.

These incidents in 2018 and 2019 show a clear pattern of violence. McGregor was living up to his “Notorious” nickname.

Dublin starts to turn its back

When Business Insider was in Dublin late last year, ahead of a Bellator MMA event featuring many Irish athletes, we visited the Colosseum boxing club in the Kylemore district of the city.

An Irish middleweight boxer called Luke Keeler told us that McGregor had been bullying a friend of his. When Keeler saw the footage of McGregor throwing a punch at an older man in the pub, it made him tweet what he says he knew about McGregor.

It was not long before McGregor called Keeler. “He made a phone call to me,” he told us. “There was a bit of ranting and raving … I don’t think he was in his right mind. I just says, like, we can have a fight, do you know what I mean? Obviously it’s a payday [for me].”

Keeler said there’s been “a few instances” of McGregor bullying people. We asked Keeler if Dublin was turning its back on its most famous athlete. Keeler said yes.

“He’s just gone off the rails and let himself down in several different instances. It’s sad, in a way, because everyone was looking up to him.”

The Irish lightweight boxer Davey Oliver Joyce agrees. “The way he was behaving … he should be a rolemodel to kids,” Joyce told Business Insider.

“To people out of the ring you got to behave. Leave the fighting to the ring, not outside. He’s turning people against him.”

Allegations of sexual assault

The New York Times wrote about a sexual assault allegation against McGregor in March, an incident he reportedly told the UFC president Dana White was not him but “someone else.”

Insider reporter Ashley Collman wrote in October that the Irishman’s entourage was accused of forcing a nightclub bottle service girl into their car after a booze-fueled evening in LA.

And, later that month, the Times wrote about a second, separate, sexual assault allegation against McGregor, which his publicist denied.

Those closest to him, from his MMA coach John Kavanagh, his Proper no. Twelve business partner Ken Austin, and his barber Craig Nolan continue to tell a different story of McGregor, one where he is all Jekyll and no Hyde.

But many fans had lost interest by that point.

Even before the second allegation emerged, Dublin MMA fans – McGregor’s core support – voiced disapproval.

McGregor, in his cream suit, with Bellator 227 headliner James Gallagher.

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McGregor, in his cream suit, with Bellator 227 headliner James Gallagher.
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Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images

At the Bellator 228 event in September, a number of McGregor’s friends and training partners at the Straight Blast Gym in the city’s Inchicore district were competing at the 3Arena. McGregor was there to support competitors like Peter Queally, Kiefer Crosbie, and headline fighter James Gallagher.

McGregor turned up at cageside late in the show, and when he walked to the VIP section to take to his seat, wearing a cream suit, pocket handkerchief, and slick-backed hair, his image was broadcast on the big TVs to those in attendance at the 13,000 capacity arena.

Business Insider was there. And while there were many cheers, there were also jeers and boos. Not everyone was pleased to see him.

How McGregor can win the crowd over

Sports has a habit of making bad news go away. This week alone, news of McGregor wanting to challenge the former eight-weight world champion boxer Manny Pacquiao has dominated the sporting press, nudging questions about sexual assault investigations by Irish police down the agenda.

His travelling fans have been making their voices heard this week, booing a journalist who asked McGregor about the allegations. Those fans are ready to watch McGregor’s return, which is generating mass interest. His comeback against Cerrone is expected to be a box office success.

It could be a personal McGregor success for a second reason. Fans love a comeback story.

When Business Insider met Keeler and the Irish boxers in October, there was no news about a comeback, just industry rumor. Keeler told us: “Everyone’s on the back of him now … but he can turn it around.”

Keeler’s head coach Peter Taylor, the father of Ireland’s famous world-champion boxer Katie Taylor, told us he thought Dublin had fallen out of love with McGregor last year. “But he can win the love back,” he said.

“I won’t tell him what to do. People love to see a downfall. One minute you’re up there, then everyone wants to cut your legs off. Conor hasn’t helped himself though. I don’t want to see anyone down. Him and my daughter Katie are the faces of Irish combat sports but Katie lives the life. That’s the difference.”

Keeler said: “It’s unimaginable the stress and pressure of being one of the most famous people in the world. The goldfish bowl that he’s in … he’s struggling with that and not dealing with it well. The only thing that will get him back is training, refocus. If he can do that, the public will forgive him and he can go again. It’s a good comeback story.”

Since we spoke to Keeler, Joyce, and Taylor in Dublin, we’re told McGregor has been focusing and training. The doors at the Straight Blast Gym closed between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., as McGregor went to work with his head trainer John Kavanagh’s fight team.

McGregor.

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McGregor.
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Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

In Las Vegas this week, at press conferences and media events which Business Insider has attended, the word “focus” has been mentioned a lot.

We spoke to Kavanagh about the focus competive sport can bring. When McGregor was fighting three times a year, controversies were rare. But after he fought once in 2017, once in 2018, and was inactive for 2019, there were problems.

Kavanagh acknowledged this. “That’s what martial arts does for people, men and women – it gives them focus. Gives them purpose. And he’s no different to anyone else. I think he doesn’t need my words, what do you think? Listen to him. He’s a different guy, right? We’re looking to keep that focus and momentum.”

To the media, McGregor again denied the allegations of sexual assault, saying: “Guys, I have done nothing wrong.”

And at a UFC 246 press conference in the Pearl Theater at the Palms Resort Casino, McGregor said: “I have not changed too much to be honest.

“I am who I am. I’m committed and focused. Sometimes you need to go to certain places in life to realize what we need to do. I certainly have turned over a new leaf.”

Only time will tell if that leaf stays turned.

Read more:

What Conor McGregor is really like, according to the man who cuts his trademark hair

Conor McGregor said he’s in talks to box Manny Pacquiao, and a prominent boxing reporter says the Filipino is interested

A reporter was loudly booed by MMA fans at a UFC event after asking Conor McGregor about the sexual assault allegations made against him

These photos show how Conor McGregor’s body has drastically changed as he’s accelerated through the UFC

A fight against Conor McGregor could generate $250 million and be Manny Pacquiao’s retirement party, according to an expert

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