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The Notorious and the Voice of an Angel: ultimate odd couple

July 24th, 2015

Weird, wonderful but weird – and maybe wrong?

Conor McGregor tattoo

The championship fight of Conor “The Notorious” McGregor in Las Vegas on July 12, spiked as it was with a heart-rending performance by Sinead O’Connor, studded as it was with Irish flags and chants of “Ole, ole ole ole”, was one of those pinch-me experiences for the witness.

Surely many Irish citizens watching, either payTV, online or subsequently on landline TV, winced at the unabashed depiction of the fighting Irish. Plucky, dangerous lot who lead with their fists, if not their knucklehead. Violence solves everything and is supreme. Don’t mess with us, boyo, ye British jackbooted … etc etc.

It’s disgusting – but also tempting, cleansing, as with any atavistic ritual that does play to feellings deep inside the person, or the collective consciousness.
So maybe that’s why tickets to the event cost €350 and yet there was an overwhelming, obvious take-up by Irish fans. An estimated 11,000 Irish fans made their presence dominant in the vast arena.

As I heard someone say, “Flights to Vegas, accommodation, tickets – if they’re not following the Irish football team around the world, they’re at this.” Remarkable, even after the scarifying recession Ireland has experienced, indeed. But there’s always money for necessities, and for some people assertion of identity is a necessity, especially an identity with bite.
Bite, and the sharp edge, is a lot of what The Notorious is about. He’s lean, mean [that Godawful tattoo on his chest, the rather more funky one delineating the vertebrae on his back], full of talk and a very snappy dresser. Apparently Louis Copeland, the Dublin tailor who dresses McGregor, has seen his online business explode with shoppers from the US seeking The Notorious style.
So what does it all add up to? The certainty that a real character who is a success outside his or her homeland will always draw adulation, fascination, with how they achieved it.
There’s repulsion and admiration, as I see it, from many people who would not be UFC fans and would probably mouth all the usual lines about the savagery of personal combat as a spectacle.  Look at Muhammad Ali, etcetera.
For there’s no doubt that UFC encompasses and enjoys a good number of whacks to the head per fight. The old wham-bam thank you man as they knock each other down is a hardy annual in spectacle for the people.
Recently, a young Dublin man was convicted of murder – with a gun – of his own uncle at a bare knuckle fight on the north side of the city. And several years ago an American magistrate was moved to attempt to censor YouTube videos of Irish men threatening each other with dire retribution, in form of physical beatings, in an ongoing dispute (those, also, were very entertaining, in a scary sort of way to a shrinking violet like me).
Looking down the road, what is the harm, if Conor McGregor, Chad Mendes and a legion of other UFC stars and hopefuls choose to earn their living this way?  It would be only if they used their skills out on the street , or in a domestic dispute, that there could be an offence. If they want to do this damage to themselves, and it’s legal – and they’re making stadiumfuls of money – it’s up to them.
But for Ireland and its reputation, for the enduring special, spiritual, talent of Sinead O’Connor harnessed with this version of Irishness, there’s something a little troubling.

Images fm104, YouTube 
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