Backstage in a vast theatre at an iconic boxing hotel earlier this week, Conor McGregor is holding court in a city he calls ‘my Las Vegas’.
He is asked how an unlikely victory over Floyd Mayweather will change his life.
For once, the words do not jab instantly back. “I’m not sure,” he says. “I don’t know how it will change my life. Life is good already. There will be a lot more money but I’m already at the forever money.”
The ‘forever money’. Great phrase. Enough to last him and his family several lifetimes, enough for the mansions, the supercars, the power boats.
Yet only four years ago, he had ‘never money’. That is why they love him out here. No place on earth likes a rags-to-riches yarn more than Vegas.
Barely a broadcast goes by without the welfare checks being mentioned.
That’s the old-fashioned dole, to me and you. His entrance into the boxing gym as a boy was a standard one. He went so he could look after himself in the street fights that would inevitably come along.
In the tough Crumlin area of Dublin, they were more inevitable. Crumlin defines McGregor to this day. He loved Crumlin Boxing Club and was a decent schoolboy fighter.
His family moved to the less edgy suburb of Lucan and returning to the Crumlin gym became a hardship but, having turned 16, his passion for combat sport deepened at a rapid rate.
For mum Mags and taxi driver dad Tony, his interest was welcome but soon it would be time for Conor to earn his keep.
At 17, he became an apprentice plumber, helping fit industrial pipes. By then, he had turned his fighting attention to Mixed Martial Arts and his life-changing moment, not that he realised it at the time, came when he walked into John Kavanagh’s MMA gym.
More than a decade later, Kavanagh remains his head coach – this despite McGregor taking ticket money meant for the boss – and will be in his corner at the T-Mobile Arena tonight.
Much to his father’s ire, McGregor quit his job and devoted himself to MMA. He signed on in 2007 and drew his last benefit cheque six years later.
McGregor made a name for himself in cage fighting but no money. Then, in 2013, the call came from the UFC and the rest is lucrative history.
The UFC is where the MMA dough is. McGregor became a star and a two-weight world champion – the face of UFC, its most recognisable practitioner.
Those celebrated ‘welfare checks’, by the way, were for 190 Euros. From never money to forever money, for sure.
And whatever your take on his behaviour, the trash talk that crosses so many lines so often, there is no denying McGregor’s rise has become one of modern sport’s more remarkable stories.
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