McGregor sat down for an exclusive interview with ESPN’s Ariel Helwanin on The MMA Show recently. The pre-taped interview was released Monday via YouTube. But gone was the antagonizing McGregor of old, or at least it seemed as if that was the case as the talk unfolded.
UFC 246 takes place January 18 at 10 p.m. Eastern time. It will air as a pay-per-view on ESPN+.
Where the old McGregor was poised to throw a steel dolly at a bus on a moment’s notice, the new McGregor told Helwani he’d rather pray for his enemies.
I’ll say a prayer for those who curse me and try to bring harm to me and move on and stay focused on the positive aspects of my life,” McGregor said. “And there are many great things in my life and that’s it.”
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McGregor Feels He Let People Down
Helwani’s interview with McGregor discussed various topics related to the fighter’s life as the 31-year-old heads into the Octagon for the first time since losing via fourth-round submission to UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229 in October 2018.
With a shockingly peaceful demeanor, McGregor calmly told Helwani that he spent the better part of the last year thinking about all the different parts of his life he didn’t like and that the Irishman ultimately decided he needed to become a new person.
“I let people down, and that’s it,” McGregor said. “I’m in a position where I must take control of things and not shy away from things. And I’ve never done that in my career, and I never will do it.”
The world’s most popular MMA athlete said he wanted to repair his image during 2020 and get back to doing only the things that made him so popular with fans in the first place.
“The support of the people means a lot to me,” McGregor said. “I do this to entertain the people, you know?”
The fighter said he wanted to take responsibility going forward for what he called a “lack of commitment”.
“The people who believe in me and support me, they deserve better and I wish to give them that,” said McGregor.
McGregor Focused on Inner Thoughts
At times, McGregor appeared to be some kind of new spiritual leader rather than one of the world’s most dangerous UFC fighters. He called 2019 a “learning year” that he used to figure himself out. What he discovered during that process was that too often the fighter was reacting to things outside his control rather than simply choosing how best to respond.
“When I came into the game, it would happen and I would laugh it off and play up to it and do my thing,” McGregor said. “And then I just kept on and on and on and on. And then it got a little much, and I realized…that I reacted.”
McGregor promised a new man from here on out. In fact, his new man now believes sometimes the best response is no response at all.
“I reacted to disrespect, but no more,” said McGregor. “I’m just focused on myself and my inner thoughts [and] my team’s thoughts, and that’s where we’re at.”
As far as how McGregor plans to stay away from the kinds of dramatic situations he’s so often found himself in the past, the fighter said he would do it by maintaining his focus only on his inner self.
“Nothing can infiltrate my internal thoughts you know? Nothing external,” said McGregor. “A lot of the narratives…used to irritate me the way certain narratives are spread and the way words are twisted and these of things and I just had to disengage from it.”
McGregor Says He Learned from Past Mistakes
When asked why he’s suddenly such a different person, McGregor said it was his past mistakes that helped spurn new growth in his life.
“Because look at where it led me, reacting to disrespect and these type of things,” said McGregor. “I’ve learned vast and valuable lessons through this that I’m very, very thankful for, and I will use them going forward.”
And even if he sees something in the press or on social media that the fighter believes is solely designed to assassinating his character?
“I will say a prayer for that,” McGregor said. “It is what it is. It’s part of the life. Like I said, a Tsunami got on top of me, and I just reacted. But no more.”
McGregor Quit Drinking Ahead of UFC 246
One example McGregor gave about him learning from past mistakes is how he’s approaching his training for UFC 246 compared to his last fight.
“Good couple of months ago [since I had a drink],” McGregor said. “Three, four months ago maybe. … I was drinking all the way through fight week last time [before UFC 229].”
Of course, McGregor lost that fight to Nurmagomedov, and the former UFC double champion said one of the things he could point to after the fact was that he’d spent too many nights drinking after hard spars at the gym.
“I had people holed up in a hotel from that part of the world, and I would ring and arrange a fight and I would ring them and they would come down to the gym and have a full-blown fight, no head guard, gloves that were small,” McGregor said. “A fight. I’d win. I’d have a war, and I’d win and I’d knock the guy out then I’d go off and celebrate. Then I’d come back in three days, not doing what I should’ve been doing, not living the life I should’ve been.”
But this time around? McGregor said he learned from the experience, and that the lesson was no alcohol consumption during camp.
“I’m not going back there,” McGregor said. “I’m in a better place. I’ve made mistakes and I’ve been man enough to admit them and correct it, and that’s what I’ve done. I might not be perfect. But with a good sleep and a full belly, I’m damn close.”
New Year, New Conor?
McGregor faces Cerrone this weekend at UFC 246. Judging by his new look, he certainly appears as if he’s in the best shape of his life right now. But perhaps even greater to how he performs this weekend, as well as in future fights, might be this positive new mental state McGregor has installed in his mind over the last year.
He’s happy. He’s healthy. He’s grateful to still be able to do what he loves most.
Heck, McGregor even said that he was thankful for the many problems he’s faced over the last few years because those are the things that helped him become the new person he is today.
“I’m grateful for the path I’ve been on truly,” said McGregor. “It’s been a phenomenal path. I’m very, very thankful. I’m very, very excited to be back.”
Whether his new outlook on life helps him as a fighter remains to be seen, but it sure seems as if McGregor is really going to give this thing a go.
His first big test is against Cerrone at UFC 246.