Reading time: 6 minutes Aug 28th 2017

CONOR MCGREGOR STILL WON

Conor McGregor won last Saturday night. I am not talking about the fight nor the money he made from the fight. I am not talking about winning over fans or winning respect from the boxing world. I am not talking about putting himself in the position of being one of the most recognisable sport brands in the world. None of that.

Conor still has his haters. From some incredible examples of classist begrudgery cloaked in ‘intellectual analysis’ in much of the Irish media to the trolls of the internet, they will all do what they do… laugh at his loss. His foes, searching desperately for the money fight with him, attack and have fun with his lack of success in the ring or octagon. He may not be a perfect role model in all ways but Conor McGregor demonstrates qualities that I believe we badly need in this day and age. Most importantly, it is in his response to his haters, that he wins time and time again.

As a sports fan, there have been plenty of times where the individual or team I was supporting won or lost. Some of these events were more important to me than others. Besides the usual banter back and forth between friends, I have noticed that some people are bad losers but just as many people are bad winners. I have seen so many examples of people jumping for joy not at someone’s victory but at someone’s loss. Indeed, when I was much younger, I gloated when England lost, at anything. I felt justified but now I am kind of embarrassed at that. Not embarrassed if I am happy that they lose but embarrassed with gloating because it is pretty pathetic. It shows the world that I revel in someone else’s misfortune. I don’t want to be that kind of person. Conor said before ‘Winners focus on winning. Losers focus on winners.’ This quote sums up the difference between real class acts and all the rest.

The gloaters in the world do so because we want the world to know ‘I was right. You were wrong.’ We want them to know that because we live in an endless pool of self-doubt where any win we cling to like it is a validation of our own worthiness. I was wrong that Conor would win last Saturday but I am glad I believed in him. I would do it again in a heartbeat. I would live in my delusion because sometimes it is such delusions that turn the world upside down. I was never convinced of how the fight would play out. I never put up much of an argument to so many people who were certain that the whole thing would be a farce, a fix or a mismatch. Everyone wants to be right so badly. They listen to the consensus and they memorise soundbites so they can sound like they know what they are talking about. But when we happen to be correct, why is there a need to ‘teach everyone a lesson’? To say ‘Ha!’? Because we are scared. Scared of being wrong. Scared of looking foolish. Scared of what people might say.

Herein lies why I believe Conor won on Saturday. It is because of a quote in his post-fight interview. Referring to his loss to submission against Nate Diaz and his loss against Mayweather, Conor says “Lay into me all you want. I’ll take it on the chin. I’ll take it wrapped around the neck on live TV. I’ve taken them both and it’s just another day for me.” How can you lose when this is your attitude? When you take your defeat with grace and you accept the haters will hate.

Conor won because he refused to allow the gloaters to affect him. All he said before the fight gave him the self-belief required to compete with one of the best boxers of all time. It helped sell the fight. I anticipate those who hate him will read this and attack him and, indeed me, claiming that he is a terrible brute/person/scumbag/example for our country. They will tune in to what they disagree with and tune out everything else. They will jump to black and white thinking. They will dismiss everything I write and stick fast to their anti-McGregor rhetoric.

Instead, I hope that some people can see that, though he is far from perfect, Conor McGregor gives the Ireland of today hope and pride in many ways.

He comes from a working class family and has excelled in his chosen sport. He has broken records and defied critics time and time again. He has faced begrudgery and hatred by many. But still he continues to stand strong. He preaches about the importance of work ethic, believing in yourself, losing with dignity and giving your all. He walks his talk. In a country known for ‘notions’ and a ‘who do you think you are’ attitude, he is often the object of ridicule. But still, he wins over the international media and charms the world like only an Irishman could.

I met Conor just once and he was nothing but nice to me. Indeed, anyone I have met who knows him says the same thing about him. He is humble in person, considerate and polite. He is fiercely loyal to his family and friends. True, his chosen field is not for everyone. His ‘antics’ are not for everyone. But his ability to believe in himself and his ability to handle defeat is such a valuable lesson I wish more people could see beyond his flaws and get this.

Celebrating the loss of others is not an honourable trait. I have learned that myself. Life is difficult enough without spending time hoping others lose because your self-esteem depends on it. We are all on our own journey. We need to celebrate victory not revel in the defeat of others. For as many people as Conor has offended, many more have been inspired by his attitude.

Conor McGregor has lost but still won. He made the impossible happen by just getting this fight and he gave it his all. Love him or hate him, the one truth is this: It’s just another day for him. I am proud of him. Proud he is Irish. When he draped the beautiful tricolour around his shoulders I saw a man I respect and am inspired by. I saw a winner.

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