Sports Personality Condemns Conor McGregor & MMA As ‘Rich Man’s Game’

A. Conor

UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor has been at the forefront of mixed martial arts since thrashing Jose Aldo the title at UFC 194. He’s seen the wuthering heights of being the most popular MMA star today, and has also paved the way for the sport in his native Ireland. But just last week ‘The Notorious’ was present for one of the lowest points possible in this sport, witnessing the fight that eventually led to the loss of a 28-year old Portuguese man’s life. We are referring to the tragic loss of Joao Carvalho following his TKO at the hands of SBGs Charlie Ward.

McGregor was front and centre to witness the bout in Dublin last weekend, and it made headline news when Carvalho was taken ill following the fight. Just two days late was sadly pronounced dead in the Beaumont hospital from brain injuries sustained during his last fight. The world of MMA was plunged in to mourning and reflection following this tale of woe, and it’s led to some massive debate in Ireland since.


Tributes poured out for the fallen warrior Joao Carvalho, but of course there were more than just heart felt messages making the rounds. A number of heated articles hit the mainstream news outlets, one such piece by Irish football pundit Joe Brolly has used much controversy.

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Is it good enough that a young man be beaten to death in a cage for our amusement? Is it good enough that as he begins the slow process of dying, lying on the canvas like a tranquillised cow in the abattoir, Conor McGregor, our most famous sportsman, is giving high fives all around, laughing, and beating his chest? Is it?

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When Henry Fauntleroy, a gentleman fraudster, was hanged at Newgate in 1824, the crowd was estimated at 100,000. If a smart promoter like Barry Hearn (above) had been alive then, he’d have hired Michael Buffer to say, “Let’s get ready to haaaaaaaaaaaaaaang . . .” and get a half-naked dolly bird to hold up notices between executions.

The violent professional sports lobby reacts violently to criticism, like the US gun lobby. They say “the fighters want to do it. It is their escape from the ghetto. Their means of expression.” When the young Welsh boxer Johnny Owen died in the ring, Hugh McIlvanney, one of those great writers who like Norman Mailer mythologises fighting, said, “It is his tragedy that he found himself articulate in such a violent language”. As though nothing could have been done about it. He was fucking dead, Hugh. Dead! Do you comprehend what that means? For him. For his family.

The fact that there are young men with violent tendencies who are prepared to put themselves on the line is neither here nor there. As a young fighter said in RTé’s recent documentary on MMA: “I like to hurt people.” Put it this way. If an American hedge fund millionaire started ‘Ultimate Combat’, where the fighters use weapons and the battle is to the death, he’d have a queue of men wanting to sign up.

They could sign consent forms. He could put them in an amphitheatre and he would most certainly fill it to overflowing. Come to think of it, that’s already been done. In Ancient Rome. And didn’t it work brilliantly? The new sport would sweep the planet. We’d all be glued to our screens. PPVs would break all records. Young men would die. But hey, it’s their tragedy if they find themselves articulate in such a dangerous language.

The promoters would become richer than Trump. The fighters would mostly die, or be disabled, or die in poverty. Just like they do now. They would take to crime and drugs, or alcohol, like Jermain Taylor, or Kelly Pavlik, or Riddick Bowe, or Mike Tyson, or Arturo Gatti or so many other ex-world champions. And that’s the cream.

These violent life-and-death sports are fun. They bring us to somewhere primitive inside us. It is why the spectators in the Colosseum gasped and cheered as the knife was thrust home. Or why the toffs on the balcony at Newgate paid big money to watch the hangman pull the lever. It is why young, penniless men are queueing up to try to murder each other in cages and boxing rings. And why Conor McGregor high fives and beats his chest as a young man dies.

It’s not the fighters’ fault. Nor the referees’. Nor the promoters’. Nor the audiences’. The law permits it. And it shouldn’t. Time to ban these violent pro sports. Sometimes, human beings have to be protected from themselves.