The lights go down: the blackout treatment. Goosebumps.
As down the glen one Easter morn to a city fair rode I,
Their armoured lines of marching men in squadrons passed me by,
No pipe did hum, no battle drum did sound its dread tattoo,
But the Angelus Bell o’er the Liffey’s swell rang out in the foggy dew.
The unmistakable voice of Sinéad O’Connor rings out around the packed-out Madison Square Garden arena, as the tricolour appears on the big screen. Electric. The lyrics- penned by Canon Charles O’Neill and composed sometime after 1919- eulogises the Irish rebels of the 1916 Easter Rising; an armed insurrection led by James Connolly and Patrick Pearse, launched in a bid to end British rule in Ireland, and establish an independent Irish Republic.
100 years after one of the most significant events in Irish history, Conor McGregor makes his walk to the Octagon; confident, assured, focused. In the center of the cage was where he would fulfil his destiny; champion of the world in two weight divisions, simultaneously. It had never been done before in the UFC, and it would take place on a night where the promotion was making it’s first ever appearance in the state of New York since it’s inception in 1993. He crawls up the steps to the cage like a primal beast, and as he turns to salute the crowd with arms raised in a show of dominance akin to the alpha predator, the realisation dawns that you were about to witness something truly historic.
The 8 minutes that followed were as flawless a performance as you are likely to ever see by an athlete on the top of his game; it was a masterclass. If there were any doubters of the fact before Saturday night, they have been put to rest with pinpoint accuracy, and devastating power; he is operating on a completely different level. It’s almost scary to witness such brilliance; he leaves you shaking your head in awe and admiration. There are no words to describe the feeling, as he sat astride the top of the cage with a belt over each shoulder and the green, white and gold draped around his neck; proud doesn’t quite cover it. Inspired. Captivated. And yet, while the rest of us lose ourselves in the ecstasy, he just nods his head and smiles. Perhaps it really did feel, familiar.
And this, this is part of his brilliance. This is why he will go down as the greatest ever- never to be equalled in his exploits.
He envisioned it all along, even on those dark and depressing Tuesday mornings, waiting in line to collect a social welfare cheque, his self-belief and determination to succeed never wavered. Not even four years have passed since he made his debut in the UFC back in April of 2013; when he announced himself to the world by stopping Marcus Brimmage inside a minute, and announced himself to Dana White in the post-fight interview.
Dana, 60 G’s baby!
No more dole queues.
His meteoric rise- and eventual clearing out of two divisions- has been swift. When you consider all that he has achieved in such a short space of time- and that he is in his prime at just 28- the prospect of what is yet to come is frightening. His journey wasn’t all smooth sailing either; the torn ACL suffered during the Holloway fight; the loss to Nate Diaz after going up 2 weight classes to welterweight; the numerous late changes of opponent (Holloway, Brandao, Mendez, Diaz). It was through overcoming these moments of adversity, where we were shown the true characteristics of the champion mindset; he is reflective and inquisitive in his approach to dealing with difficulties, and has an ability to perceive these difficulties as merely being opportunities to grow and learn. Couple these characteristics with consistent effort, focused application, dedication, burning desire, and an unshakeable self-belief, and well, you all saw the fight.
What we witnessed on Saturday last was the result of all these elements coming together, over a sustained period of time, to bring a vision into reality. It was almost surreal. It was beautiful, flawless. It was perfect to the point of being terrifying. It was phenomenal. Indeed, Conor McGregor is a phenom, the likes of which we will never again see in our lifetime.
It takes a special kind of person to instil a sense of purpose and direction in people’s lives, to encourage others to look inwards and asks questions of themselves; questions that I’m sure he asked himself at some point along the journey; perhaps while standing on the edge of a building site as a young apprentice plumber, before marching up to the foreman and telling him to stick his job up his hole; perhaps when standing in line outside the dole office on a wet and blustery Tuesday morning.
Ultimately, we are responsible for the direction in which our lives take us; we choose our destiny. Conor McGregor enlightens us to that fact; an embodiment of human potential, he shows us what can be achieved by pursuing a passionate existence, with vision and clarity.
Isn’t that all we strive for at the end of the day: to feel fulfilled; to have a purpose; to be true to ourselves? In order to have the courage to look within, to explore the depths of our soul, and to find out what it is that ignites the embers of our being, a revolution of sorts may need to take place; a revolt against conformity. Rather than treading a certain path just because someone tells us we ought to, why not figure out the direction we actually want to go, and blaze our own trail? That’s the essence of living, and I for one am excited to see what destiny has in store.