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Conor McGregor’s dubious message welcomed with open arms in pro-Trump America

Former UFC fighter was a darling of the American right long before he began spewing bile about migrants in Ireland

Conor McGregor was interviewed by Sean Hannity on Fox News Channel last March. With nine months still remaining on the calendar, the host that night clinched the prize for most unctuous television interview of the year.

Evincing pandering skills finely honed over a decade massaging the fragile ego and febrile temper of Donald Trump, Hannity slathered and slobbered all over his gurning guest, coating him in a glaze of idolatry normally reserved for the former president or his scions. They are regulars on a show regarded as the official television wing of the last administration.

Ostensibly there to promote his rot-gut whiskey by making a $1m corporate donation to a worthy charity called Tunnel to Towers, McGregor received a journalistic sponge-bath that left him spotless, giving the impression he’s just a lovable rogue with a brogue. An Irish charmer with a glint in his eye. Not somebody who has attracted serious attention from police forces in three different countries for disturbing reasons.

Being a wannabe martial artist himself, Hannity was even more sycophantic than usual during this lengthy infomercial for the Dubliner’s business interests. They even laughed off him dropping an f-bomb, the type of offence that normally has the Christian zealots clutching pearls.


Rewatching that clip now involves wading through treacly smarm but it’s worth the effort to remember sportswashing comes in all shapes and sizes and that McGregor was the darling of the American right long before he began spewing bile about migrants in Ireland.

Of course, his recent inflammatory rhetoric on that issue has intensified the love affair between himself and the conservative media industrial complex in these parts. No more stirring tunes than the well-worn anti-migrant standards to get those fellas throwing supportive shapes.

After several positive articles about his newfound politics, the New York Post, the newspaper arm of Fox News, last week ran a piece by a Dublin-based journalist about McGregor’s presidential ambitions and how he is giving ‘Ireland’s anti-migrant voters a voice’. Since nobody has heard a peep from that constituency before.

There has been equally enthusiastic coverage of his capering all over conservative outlets. Outkick, a website owned by Fox (anybody seeing a pattern here?) that offers a peculiarly right-wing take on sports, has been delighted by McGregor espousing political views that align with their own.

The Daily Wire, an even more extremist outfit regularly cited for hate speech and bigotry, was excited enough by events in Dublin to ask, ‘Can Conor McGregor save Ireland?’

Ben Shapiro, host of that site’s flagship talkshow and far right bloviator supreme, performed a solemn read out of several McGregor tweets, as if they were Churchillian pronouncements to beleaguered London residents during the Blitz. Or even social media missives from the demented Maharaja of Mar-a-Lago. That’s how seriously these people take the former UFC champ.

“Phenomenal President,” tweeted McGregor about Trump in January 2020. “Quite possibly the USA GOAT. Most certainly one of them anyway, as he sits atop the shoulders of many amazing giants that came before him. No easy feet (sic). Early stages of term also. Incredible…”

A poorly spelt paean, it almost led to him being asked by the Trump White House to front a campaign promoting masking during the pandemic. That he would be even considered for such a role is down to UFC being beloved of the Trumpers.

In the same way they regard soccer as suspicious, effete, and, worst of all, European, the base antics and classless carry-on of caged warriors in a sport with scarcely any rules fulfils all these people’s alpha fantasies, appealing to their desperate need to always reek of machismo. See also the obsession with gun play.

This is why Trump turns up to UFC events so often. He knows it is the one place outside of campaign rallies where he will receive unbridled adulation and unswerving adoration. Dilettantes who believe punching somebody prone on a canvas in the head is “human chess” are fully paid-up members of his tribe, devotees of his cult.

Witness his arrival at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas last Saturday night, the raucous acclaim of a Roman emperor entering the Coliseum to watch his favourite gladiator, Colby Covington, one of the most reprehensible characters in American sport. Some boast that.

The credulous demographic which prostrates itself at Trump’s feet also believe McGregor is equal parts warrior and straight-talking philosopher and, so, has no problem envisaging him pivoting to politics.

The worry for Ireland is a template now exists showing how anybody with serious money, media savvy, and a knack for canny scapegoating can make a serious impact. And the early signs are that this is far more organised than the usual ranting and raving of a man forever trying to create headlines to flog pints of his execrable stout.

Soon after the liquor salesman tweeted about being at war, an image popped up on social media of him brandishing a machine gun, backgrounded by an army of lads ready for combat on an Irish street.

It is eerily similar to ludicrous flags that flutter across America showing the face of Trump, who famously dodged the Vietnam draft five times claiming bone spurs, superimposed onto the ripped body of John Rambo.

Neither of these charlatans ever served their countries. But that scarcely matters. The gullible are as susceptible to mythology as they are to demagoguery. Everything McGregor has achieved to date offers proof of that.