When Conor McGregor was a young lad in Dublin, training in martial arts and eking out a meager living as a plumber's apprentice, he devoted himself to envisioning a bigger and better future. He had become a believer in the power of creative visualization, so as he set out to transform his imagining into glorious reality, McGregor was pushing himself toward a destiny his mind had already created.
As the Irishman grew closer to becoming the biggest star in the UFC, he might have even pictured himself one day having the means to fly his entire family to Miami in order to celebrate his mum's 60th birthday at the $1,000-a-night Versace Mansion. What a proud night that must have been for the McGregor clan. The photos the former two-division champion posted on social media in recent days reveal a family basking in the luxurious spoils of the son's magnificent success.
But amid all of McGregor's mental imagery, did he even once visualize the unforgiving side of fame and fortune? On Monday, he was arrested in Miami Beach after allegedly slapping a cell phone out of the hand of a fan who was attempting to take his picture outside a nightclub at 5 a.m. The fighter is further accused of stomping on the phone before picking it up and walking away with it. After being charged with two felonies, McGregor was bailed out and left police custody into a sea of media cameras -- a scene reminiscent of the madness that played out in Brooklyn less than a year ago, when he was arrested for attacking a bus full of UFC fighters and staff.
Back in the days before he'd made it to the spotlight, did McGregor ever visualize any of the turmoil? And does he now have the mindset needed to turn the page and move on from this mischievously troubling chapter in his life?
This is the reality McGregor now faces, and like his success story, it is a reality of his own creation. At age 30, he has reached the pinnacle of the sports world, and that situates him in a glass house where his every move is scrutinized. It does not take much for the spotlight to turn blindingly harsh.
Before getting into that, let's first acknowledge that the ubiquitous presence of cell phones in our culture can be maddening. Whether we're being endangered on the road by a texting driver or merely irritated by someone disturbing the dark ambiance of a movie theater by checking a phone, we've all felt the gritted-teeth desire to lash out. But we know not to act on every impulse, maybe because we respect the norms of civilized society, or maybe simply because we recognize that our actions come with consequences.
If the accusation that prompted McGregor's arrest is true, it is just the latest indication that the man with the "Notorious" nickname has lost sight of the relationship between actions and consequences. Maybe fame and fortune have dulled the pain of life's consequences, since he now has the money to make his misdeeds go away. Maybe he always acted out but no one noticed until he was a headliner. Maybe he doesn't care what people think. Maybe he just is prone to getting lost in the moment.
McGregor seemed to acknowledge as much on Tuesday in an Instagram post, writing, "Patience in this world is a virtue I continue to work on."
This was evident even before last year's bus attack at a UFC media event at Barclays Center. A few months prior, at a Bellator MMA event in Dublin, McGregor leaped into the cage to celebrate an apparent victory by a friend and teammate. Unfortunately the referee had not yet waved off the bout. And McGregor did not belong inside the cage regardless, because he was in the arena as a fan, not a licensed cornerman. When he was instructed to leave, McGregor pushed the ref and verbally berated him -- a major no-no in MMA. It was the act of someone who believed the rules did not apply to him. As was the attack in Brooklyn.
McGregor storms cage and confronts ref
Conor McGregor jumps into the octagon to celebrate with SBG Ireland teammate Charlie Ward after his Bellator 187 victory and goes after the referee.
If the incident outside the Fontainebleau hotel played out as the narrative in the police report alleges, McGregor has ramped up his lack of impulse control. It's one thing for a person to lose his cool and slap a phone out of someone's hand. But to stomp on the phone, then pick it up and walk away with it, those are separate, additional acts. Even if the whole incident happened in just a few seconds, wouldn't there have been a moment where McGregor remembered his legal mess in New York and all the disruption that brought to his life?
And yet this offense would come nowhere near the level of seriousness of the Brooklyn bus attack. That vile incident caused bodily harm to at least three people, did significant property damage and resulted in the UFC canceling three fights. By comparison, knocking a cell phone out of someone's hand seems like a small matter.
But McGregor has reached the level of fame where even small stuff matters. Who knows if he ever slapped a cell phone out of someone's hand back in the days when he was a plumber and amateur fighter. No one cared about that guy. But the sports world cares now about Conor McGregor and is watching his every step. And misstep.
If McGregor continues along his current path, there surely will be more bumps ahead, some big and some small, all of them detouring him from where he wants to be. But maybe he can instead find the motivation to creatively visualize a less volatile future. Perhaps he can look within and find the maturity to bring that future to fruition. Only then will he free himself to live the life he long ago envisioned.