Notorious Vice: Mythmaking and the Cult of McGregor
‘Are you a believer now?’
This was the message that awaited me early Sunday morning, bleary-eyed from a long evening of fight watching. A friend of mine was putting it me after Conor McGregor’s stunning defeat of Jose Aldo. Thet was as all McGregor devotees have put it: you never understood.
This is the MMA world we must now live in. One dominated by a singular figured who bears a King King tattoo on his chest and a tiger on his belly button. One dominated in the public sphere by McGregor's most devoted, Notoriorites.
McGregor’s career has ascended into the realm of myth. As his charge towards the belt progressed, it became more and more likely. But in that time, you could have been fooled by those who saw it as McGregor did: his charge was more and more inevitable.
Fans speak of him overwhelmingly in axioms. That is to say, McGregor is a premise so evident as to be accepted as true without controversy. He has becomes a living, breathing Chuck Norris Rule. In the 24 hours since his stunning victory, every inch of the public sphere has been bathed in these McGregor axioms. As if his pseudonym ‘Mystic Mac’ were not only true, but also true without question.
These have extended to McGregor's staple predictions. It's a strong part of his allure, one of the five faces the public sees of McGregor, that he calls the results of his fights. Like a cult leader, he tells his followers the way it will be and when it happens, his aura is strengthened. This ignores, of course, that his predictions are built entirely on probability. McGregor, of course, knows his capabilities, style, and pace better than anyone.
McGregor predicted he would knock out Aldo in four minutes. He said that — but of course he did. 15 of his fights have ended in the first round. So of course, if he knocks him out at all it would be in round one.
There were those who said McGregor called his shot, the left hand. McGregor said this — but of course he did. Any analyst worth their salt has been noting the left straight is his best punch. Any fan who has seen his fight knows its devastating power. Even more importantly, in this circumstance (as in most his fights) the left straight would be his best tool because of the southpaw versus orthodox matchup.
McGregor said he would knock Aldo out. Which he did — but of course he would. McGregor has finished 17 of his 19 opponents by knockout. He wasn;t exactly going to go in there and slap Aldo in an Von Flue Choke.
Famously, Robin Black quoted McGregor back to himself to prove that McGregor had visualized he would knock out Aldo the way he did. Except, the full text of the quote is actually far more general than what happened. McGregor not only didn’t slip Aldo’s punch — which connected — it also wasn’t a right hand (he faked a right), it was a left. To Notoriorites, of course, doesn’t matter, because the key was that McGregor said ‘They either over-extend…’ which Aldo certainly did. Except the rest of that sentence was, ‘…or they shrink away.’ Which is to say, McGregor basically said, ‘I’ll either start walking with my right foot or my left.’
McGregor is someone who is constantly in the public eye, the subject of numerous interviews. As we take McGregor’s word for it, the word is no longer taken for what it is — the ruminations of a talented, erudite fighting mind. His words are being taken as gospel.
What McGregor has become is a cult hero in this age of instant connectivity. On the surface, He has the blueprint down. Superficially, he’s got the looks of a celebrity, a foreign quirk and a comedian wit.
When he steps in the cage and he morphs into something terrifying, a maker of car crashes. His style is one all fans appreciate. Except the majority of fans would say his style is the only good way to fight: he walks forward and puts people unconscious. He offers a pure, unhinged, heat-seeking entertainment quality.
There is McGregor at post-fight press conferences, generally not a scratch on his face. His straight white teeth match a finely tailored white suit, massive sunglasses and a gold watch. His hair perfectly preened, as is his beard. Only a few feet away, his opponent (if they haven’t gone to hospital first) looks dismayed and battered, head down over their plain MMA-branded t-shirt. One looks like the master in every way, the other barely a student. They’ve been put in their place by a man who told them how it would be then made it so.
McGregor can be captured and shared over beers, in texts, on Facebook, with the click of a button. His gospel can be passed from person to person, desktop to desktop. To boot, he has his most devoted, the traveling Irish, to punctuate his every gesture with a chant. It all makes one want to believe, to be a part of something, to join the cult. With the images and soundbites he produces, how can someone not?
It was a truly spectacular moment on Saturday. McGregor put to rest any speculation about his charge with a thunderous left straight counter.
Had McGregor put Aldo away within the first round similarly to Diego Brandao, the MMA sphere would have erupted regardless. Had he polished Aldo off in two like Mendes, the reaction would have been the same. That he did it to who he did it to in 13 seconds makes this more important: it ushers in a new world order. Rome wasn't built in a day, but it certainly was torn down in one.
The knockout wasn’t even the most gorgeous of sequences, as Anderson Silva’s stunning backwards moving counter knockout of Forest Griffin was. It was stunning because it was decisive. It was stunning because Aldo actually stepped outside McGregor’s lead foot, leaning away from the vaunted left hand.
We may never hear the volume from this moment subside. Notoriorites will forever chant this day in folk songs for years to come. A cult hero we deserve. We must obey.