Ah, it’s just a wee bit of confidence, a bit of cheeky banter, we said, explaining away his brash talk and bluster. Somehow, he has upgraded banter to battering, and we are not laughing anymore.
The world loves a rags to riches story, as long as it is still making its way up. The rockier the road on the way up, the more compelling the character.
And so, the world tolerated it when Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather made a farce out of boxing by agreeing to share a pot of ludicrous money to supposedly fight over 12 rounds. McGregor was out of his depth, and actual students of the boxing craft pilloried Mayweather for doing what he has done for most of his career: take the easy money, the battle he was always going to win.
Still, millions bought the hype that came dressed in a pin-striped suit, driven by a leprechaun-green Lamborghini, and screaming expletives down Rodeo Drive in the build-up.
“You’ll do nothin’!” was McGregor’s mantra, a battle cry designed to show his rivals that he wasn’t scared of anything. He said it before every UFC fight, and he spat it out whenever a microphone or camera was put in front of him.
He was unapologetic but, stacked up against the wife-beating Mayweather, we confused him for a breath of fresh air. And so, as he had decreed, the world did nothing. McGregor took $100 million to take a bit of punishment from Mayweather in an exhibition sparring session, and he jigged off into the Irish sunset.
It was St Paddy’s Day, his birthday and Christmas all at once, and neatly wrapped in a giant, four-leaf clover. That ought to have kept him content for life. But, as we have learnt this week, McGregor has been anything but content. He has been stewing, in a most un-Irish fashion, at that. Deep down, he still craves the credibility that comes with beating down the doubters in the only place where he can justifiably tell a man that he will do nothing.
All the money in the world can’t buy that street cred.
Within the caged chaos of a UFC ring, McGregor found calm. He found huge fame, and small fortune. He had laced them up for respect, but he quickly realised that he was building a small army behind him, a throng of merry men who believed he was the chosen one. He found reverence, when he hadn’t even asked for it.
He came from nothing, so it was only fitting that he told his opponents that they would do nothing. Heck, after what life had thrown him, there was just about nothing that he could fear. That poverty was the fuel that drove him to vast riches, but he is now in danger of losing all of that – purely because he is an enduring product of his violent environment.
Images surfaced this week of McGregor vandalising a bus that was carting other UFC fighters to a press conference in New York.
There, in the belly of the Barclays Centre, the beast that will forever consume McGregor came to life, and it tore into everything in its path.
It was like a scene scripted for that farce known as the WWE, but we all know that is just acting.
Sadly for McGregor, his actions in New York were disturbingly real.
He used to be revered as the only fighter in UFC history to simultaneously hold two titles in two weight classes. Today, he holds two criminal charges at the same time.
The full consequences of his actions are still to surface, but McGregor has already felt the cold reality of handcuffs on the very mitts that brought him the warmth of a nation’s love and admiration.
He has been reminded that, for all the money, the cars and the bright lights, acting like a bum will still land your ass in the company of those who can’t behave.
And, depressingly, once anyone is inside those four walls of brutal contemplation, you’ll do absolutely nothing.