Is McGregor A Racist… Or Just Playing One?
I’m a big Conor McGregor fan.
I like his attitude and fighting style. He has brought swagger and panache to MMA, and the fight game hasn’t seen a character like him since Mike Tyson.
Think about it. Before McGregor’s arrival, fighters were wearing board shorts and hoodies. Now they are sporting custom-tailored suits, asking for big money fights, and talking shit in hopes of bigger paydays. We can thank the Irishman for that.
McGregor is entertaining and a master at mental warfare who knows exactly how to get inside his opponent’s head. However, there is one question that needs to be answered: Is McGregor racist?
Though not a new one, the question has been discussed much more frequently on the web since the Toronto pressconference where he told Mayweather: “Dance for me, boy.” A lot of people have interpreted that statement as having racist undertones.
For the sake of argument, let’s examine some of McGregor’s past public faux pas to see if the man is a bigot or just a trash talker who will use anything to provoke his opponent.
The McGregor/Aldo press conferences for UFC 194 were legendary. Who can forget that epic moment when Conor snatched Jose’s belt from the table and waved it in front of a roaring crowd? To me, that was a big psychological turning point for the fight.
During that tour, the trash talk was off the charts, but there was one thing McGregor said that did not sit well with most Brazilians. It was when the Irishman told the Brazilian crowd:
“If this was a different time, I would invade his villa on horseback and kill anyone that wasn’t fit to work.”
Conor McGregor is no doubt familiar with the history behind that statement.
In the 16th century, the first Europeans settlers arrived in Brazil and did in fact enslave the natives. The Portuguese did a lot of killing. They annihilated tribe after tribe with trickery, warfare and disease.
That statement from McGregor was provocative, and it explains why many Brazilian fighters like Fabricio Werdum and Anderson Silva wanted his head on a platter.
Another iconic press conference was the one for UFC 196, the first fight between McGregor and Nate Diaz.
Once again, the trash talk was in full effect. The two fighters went back and forth, each trying to weasel into the other’s head. And just like on the Aldo press tour, McGregor used some language that did not sit well with a particular group, this time Mexican-Americans. Some argue that Conor crossed the line when he said:
“I like Nick’s little brother… he’s like a cholo gangster from the hood.”
The word cholo has “historically been used along the borderland as a derogatory term to mean lower class Mexican migrants, and in the rest of Latin America to mean an acculturating Indian or peasant.”
Now did McGregor know the meaning of the word? Of course he did. Does that make him a racist? Well, take this into consideration: cholo “was turned on its head and used as a symbol of pride in the context of the ethnic power movements of the 1960s.”
I certainly do not think McGregor was trying to empower Diaz, however, I do think it’s possible he was using the new meaning of the word because he said “cholo gangster,” which some might take as a compliment. Most importantly, Diaz never seemed to take offense.
Two weeks ago, two of the world’s best smack talkers began promoting their super fight set for August 26. Once again, Conor McGregor managed to upset a whole ethnic group.
At the Toronto stop of the Mayweather/McGregor press tour, Conor grabbed the mic and told Floyd Mayweather:
“Dance for me, boy!”
The phrase went viral. The Internet buzzed with anger and subsequently denounced McGregor as a racist. Most Americans will understand why.
The term “boy” has a deep history entwined with centuries of black slavery in America, frequently used to demean and insult black men. It has a similar context to the n-word.
Calling a black man or any man a boy is insulting but once again, I don’t think it was used in a racial matter. I think it was used in the same way one might call someone else a “bitch.” Doing so doesn’t necessarily mean you hate women.
(Editor’s note: Let’s not forget this gem from his 2014 bout with German kickboxer, Dennis Siver. Ouch.)
The Bottom Line
McGregor is a great entertainer who knows how to get into his opponent’s head. He also knows how to play the heel and generate interest in his fights.
Keeping that in mind, the Irishman does have a way with words and likes to push the boundaries. His insults are meant to rattle his opponents. The best barbs are sharp ones, after all.
Is McGregor racist? Who knows for sure? But let’s consider a few relevant facts, such as that he enters the cage blasting Biggie Smalls, or that he trains with an Armenian (Dillon Danis), a Russian (Artem Lobov) and a Jew (Ido Portal).
It all leads me to believe what attentive fans know already: Conor McGregor is doing a masterful job of playing a colorful character.
- Pierre started his journey in martial arts after witnessing Bruce Lee on the silver screen. He began training Tae Kwon Do, earning a brown belt by his 18th birthday. He took up Muay Thai in 2000, training under Kru Nestor Marte in New York City. Pierre eventually moved to South Florida and trained at American Top Team under Christian Toleque and the late Howard Davis Jr. Pierre finally made the leap to Bangkok in 2007, having about a dozen fights. Today, Pierre Smith teaches Muay Thai and strength and conditioning out of his home gym. He also has a podcast called Catching Wreck which is available on Soundcloud, iTunes and Google Play. Pierre can be reached at www.catchingwreck.com.