From nothing, to something, to everything. The meteoric rise of Conor McGregor has played out in an age of social media with full access to every aspect of his life. With countdown shows, a six-part documentary series, endless press conferences, and websites that seem to exist solely to comment on his tweets. The question is, is there anything in ‘Conor McGregor: Notorious’ we haven’t already seen? The answer is a resounding yes. Having followed pretty much every aspect of McGregor’s career since his Cage Warriors days. I was surprised at the amount of unseen footage and new perspectives on well know incidents like the infamous Diaz press conference.
The film opens with the hellacious 3rd Round of the Nate Diaz rematch with McGregor seemingly staring another defeat in the face. Before flashing back 4 years earlier to McGregor and Cathal Pendred bemoaning the lack of support the sport receives to the point where they can’t even afford training gear. McGregor seamlessly goes from casting aside numerous debt collection letters to buying fleets of cars for himself and his family.
With McGregor listed as the executive producer on the film. I was wary that this would turn out to be a propaganda highlight piece similar to Ronaldo’s recent highlight reel masquerading as a documentary. But there are moments when we see the man behind the persona. Tearful in a bathroom after the Mendes victory when the scale of his achievements finally overwhelm him. Or the aftermath of the Diaz defeat where sitting in the wreckage of his unbeaten UFC record he shows the first crack in the unshakeable aura he has built for himself. Questioning the effort of resistance he put up in the fight.
There are moments when the facade slips and the kid from Crumlin peeks through. Like after a visit from Arnold Schwarzenegger. McGregor and girlfriend Dee Devlin almost explode with glee, like two kids who have just met Santa Claus. The panic in his eyes when during a training session with Owen Roddy he thinks he has suffered a re-occurrence of his knee injury. Its also the only time he requests the ever-present cameras to be shut off. More moments like this would have helped non-fans see the man behind the sound-bytes.
Perhaps most revealing is his admission that he has created “an illusion of insanity” to throw people off to the fact that behind the swaggering persona there is a man who values hard work and technique above all else.
The film isn’t quite the warts and all look I was hoping for. The UFC 200 pull out and subsequent retirement are not mentioned. It would have been fascinating to see how that was playing out behind the scenes. There is no mention of the fall out with head coach John Kavanagh before his UFC debut that is covered in Kavanagh’s book. There are no outside perspectives of the cult of personality surrounding McGregor. How he has tapped into the psyche of a generation of angry young men to the point where his every action good and bad, is celebrated and defended by his disciples.
The fight scenes are epic, with every bead of sweat and drop of blood visible. This is a documentary that was built for the big screen. Director Gavin Fitzgerald, who also made the wonderful “The Fighting Irish” has a clear love for the sport and delivers a funny, exciting and very human look at one of the most intriguing and charismatic figures in sporting history.
4 out of 5
Words: Andy McCarroll @andymc1983