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11 Apr, 2020 14:48

Political heavyweight? Conor McGregor’s coronavirus proclamations could betray much bigger ambitions

Political heavyweight? Conor McGregor’s coronavirus proclamations could betray much bigger ambitions

He’s made a fortune from fighting and has a burgeoning business empire, but is UFC megastar Conor McGregor now intent on stepping into the political arena after his increasingly vocal presence during the coronavirus crisis?

McGregor, 31, has used his mammoth social media following – which stands at 44 million across Instagram and Twitter – to ensure he has got his views across loud and clear throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest of McGregor’s proclamations came ahead of the Easter weekend in Ireland, as with typical self-assuredness he demanded more stringent border closures to stem the flow of the deadly disease, which has caused just over 8,000 cases and 287 deaths in his homeland as of Saturday.  

“We have the best of everything here. We can produce, supply, and serve every need from this great island. In fact, food = no go also. For now. All ports must close. Medical supplies + medical personnel only,” McGregor wrote in conclusion to a series of tweets on the pandemic.

The MMA star has tagged lawmakers of all ranks in Ireland with his coronavirus declarations – right up to the Irish taoiseach (prime minister), Leo Varadkar – as well as exhorting members of the media to ask specific questions to the powers that be.

In recent weeks, McGregor has taken the country’s leaders to task for accepting coronavirus aid from China – branding the step “barbaric” – while pressing for a full lockdown enforced by the Irish military.

Also on rt.com Conor McGregor attacks 'barbaric' Chinese government over coronavirus aid to Ireland

All of the declarations have been issued with the trademark swagger and grandstanding cocksureness with which McGregor makes fight predictions.

But as he ventures increasingly beyond his role as a concerned (if very high-profile) citizen, are we seeing the ground being prepared for McGregor as something more akin to a political figure?

This is, after all, a man who has previously said that "everything is a tactical move. Everything."  

McGregor has made no secret of his potential political ambitions in the past.

In a Facebook post from back in 2018, he claimed to be "becoming more and more interested in where much of the money in my home state has gone and where it actually goes when it comes in.

"There are more and more things I see daily that do not add up.

"I see many things I do not like and I see many things that I feel can be easily amended under correct instruction. We shall see," he wrote. 

His father Tony suggested the same in 2017, saying“Conor could be a politician if he chooses. Maybe when his fighting career is over. Conor might choose politics.”

'The Notorious' is a man of throwaway comments and soundbites, but he is clearly taking an active interest in the Covid-19 crisis and its handling in his Irish homeland. 

Whether McGregor would be taken seriously as a potential political force is another question entirely, of course.

He is a divisive figure in his homeland: some fete him as a national hero for proudly waving the flag during his ascent as one of the world's most recognizable sports personalities; others see him as an overly brash protagonist whose reputation is tainted by sexual assault allegations (which he firmly denies) as well as an assault charge for punching an elderly man in a Dublin pub last year.

Likewise, beyond McGregor's usual fawning fanbase, it is unclear how people are taking his outspoken input on the coronavirus crisis. Some may take his thoughts as gospel from a man who cares about the national wellbeing, others may dismiss them as those of an ego-crazed multimillionaire who is out of his depth and simply has nothing better to do with his lockdown time.

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But love him or loathe him, McGregor is a undoubtedly man with ambitions to match that outsized ego.

Not content with his rise to becoming a double UFC champion, he then made the implausible become possible when he swapped MMA for boxing to face Floyd Mayweather in their mega-money 2017 bout in Las Vegas.

In turn, he used that publicity to supercharge the launch of his Proper No. Twelve whiskey brand, which he continues to count among his assorted business interests.

He is also used to rubbing shoulders with the high and mighty the world over, including a meeting at the 2018 World Cup final with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In another sign of his political leanings, McGregor took to Twitter in January to praise US President Donald Trump – someone whose blunt, self-aggrandizing style would appear to be a perfect fit for the UFC star.

After the Covid-19 crisis has blown over, McGregor will have unfinished business to attend to in the UFC octagon as he looks to build on his successful January comeback and ultimately set up a showdown with Russian nemesis Khabib Nurmagomedov, who defeated him in Las Vegas in 2018.

But beyond that, things are more difficult to predict for the man who once styled himself 'Mystic Mac'. Even with his fighting legacy secure and myriad business interests to occupy him, he does not appear to be a man to rest on his laurels.   

So for better or worse, don't be surprised if Conor McGregor increasingly fancies himself more and more as a political force to be reckoned with. The coronavirus crisis could be just the start.