Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos was named the recipient of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize this morning, and as tribute, we're exploring the softer side and philanthropic work of UFC Featherweight Champion, and UFC 205 headliner, Conor McGregor.
For whatever reason, it seems that a lot of MMA fans (and even some fighters) have a hard time separating Conor McGregor: The Fight Promoter, from Conor McGregor: The Person. They see highlights of the brash and arrogant fighter screaming his way through pre-fight press conferences and assume that it's just in his nature to do so, which is kind of like thinking that The Undertaker spends his free time digging graves and summoning corpses from the dead and when he's not wrestling.
Outside of the Octagon, the reality is that McGregor is still very much the humble, down to Earth guy who was living on welfare in the years living up to his UFC debut. Like countless entertainers before him, the UFC Featherweight Champion has crafted a unique and highly marketable character that lies in almost complete contradiction to the man he is in everyday life, as even a cursory scroll through his social media pages reveals.
In the build-up to his first fight with Nate Diaz at UFC 196, Conor McGregor infamously trolled the thuggish Stocktonian for teaching jiu jitsu to children on the weekends, saying that "he makes gang signs with the right hand and balloon animals with the left." It was a pretty brilliant insult that, truth be told, could just as easily be applied to McGregor himself.
One of the more influential figures in his native Ireland, McGregor has consistently gone above and beyond to give back to his fans in any way he can. Just yesterday, he shared the photo above on his Twitter and Instagram pages after running into a young fan who didn't have a phone on her at the time to snap a photo with the featherweight champ. "To the the little lady who left her phone at home," wrote McGregor.
While making the daily back and forths to the gym prior to UFC 196, McGregor happened to spot an Irish flag and cutout of himself adorning a fan's Los Angeles apartment. After promising the fan that he would swing by to pay his respects, McGregor actually followed through the next night and surprised the fan to sign some autographs and show his gratitude. The inherent creepiness of the fan's, well, fanaticism aside (specifically that Single White Female-esque matching haircut), McGregor just seemed happy to give something back.
“I appreciate the support of all the fans out here and all over the world. I never take it for granted," said McGregor.
It's no wonder that his fans are willing to go to such extreme lengths to show their support for him.
Speaking of giving back, it would appear that the time McGregor has spent with U2 frontman (and fellow Irishman) Bono has also rubbed off the featherweight champ. Last year, McGregor donated €50,000 and made a string of appearances across Ireland in support of his country's homeless crisis, writing on Facebook that:
I put time into researching both the Simon Community and Focus Ireland charities. The work of both these organizations is unparalleled with the homeless crisis in our country.We have put together a four day event across the country. Meet fans. Have some fun. Celebrate life, and also help build money to put towards this major crisis we have in our country.
Bono, born Paul David Hewson, is a notorious philanthropist, having won nearly every major humanitarian award, save of the Nobel Prize itself. And with a budding relationship with McGregor, could the pair be heading towards larger aid and relief efforts?
Despite maintaining an absolutely grueling promotional schedule over the past few years, McGregor has always found a way to make time for the the people who matter most.
Suffice it to say, it would appear that McGregor could not be more different than the persona he flaunts in the cage, even if said persona does take it a bit far at times. While any fighter as outspoken as McGregor is sure to divide fans and fighters alike, you need look no further than what former rival Jose Aldo had to say about him while describing their "friendly relationship" in a recent interview.
"I've seen him staring at a wall, looking at nothing with everyone around him trying to taunt him and he would just stand there, gazing," said Aldo
"He's a regular, mellow guy, but if he sees a camera or some Irish people, he transforms in a such way that makes you say to yourself 'son of a bitch'".
The takeaway here is a familiar one, and one that you'd think we'd all have firmly locked down in the era of reality television: people are actually quite different in life then they are on television. Crazy right?
lead image courtesy of Instragram