"I would like to take this chance to apologize... to absolutely nobody!" Thus spake MMA's outlandish Irishman in a promo advertisement that's run on repeat on ESPN over the last two weeks in the run up to UFC 246. But to hear Conor McGregor tell it himself, he's been in quite the apologetic kind of mood ahead of the highly-anticipated event.
The near-manic zero-apologies clip dates back to UFC 205 in November 2016, the night in which McGregor won the lightweight championship from Eddie Alvarez. It was one of the true "it's good to be the bad guy" moments in the annals combat sports. So, what are we to make of the fact that, in his pre-fight press conference with Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone on Thursday, the dude just sounds friendly?
Sure, the bluster is still there. He did say he'd be knocking Cerrone out. He didn't get electroshock therapy or a frontal lobotomy, people. But the way in which McGregor has carried himself in these past weeks -- at least while cameras have rolled -- reflects a man who's begun to find some semblance of tranquility or even (DON'T MAKE ME REGRET TYPING THIS) happiness after years of turbulence, excess, and scrapes with the law. A man who won't hesitate to volunteer that he's done wrong.
Seriously, have you ever seen a pre-fight presser dripping with more mutual respect free of subtweety innuendo?
You'd almost swear that something was wrong with McGregor below the surface. That there's another shoe to drop between now and the late hours of Saturday night in Las Vegas. At this point, I'd wager that one of two things must be true:
OPTION 1: Conor McGregor has finally started to get his act together after years of vice, unregulated emotions, and being incapable of hearing anyone tell him no.
OPTION 2: Either consciously or unconsciously, he's ultimately playing us for chumps. The relapse into Old Conor is imminent, because you can't teach an old bloke new craic.
It must be mentioned: McGregor was reportedly named in two different sexual assault allegations in Ireland that continue to be investigated, though he has not been charged with any crime (uncomfortably, fans booed a reporter who asked about the topic at Thursday's press event). He attacked an old man in a bar for not being sufficiently enthusiastic about his personal whiskey brand. No one is wrong to wish for second chances in the face of awful decisions, but you wouldn't be so wrong to argue that Conor has already used his up multiple times over.
Point blank, it's tough to reconcile the man who suddenly couldn't stop respecting Cerrone's many records and complimenting his immaculate python skin jacket Thursday night with the man who smashed a random fan's cell phone in Miami and has repeatedly been a person of interest to law enforcement for ugly reasons. You'd swear you were missing something here.
Perhaps the most telling crucible is seeing how the man behaves in defeat, an outcome few outside of 12uppercut are picking to happen this weekend. For now, we can only hope this version of McGregor that practically sounds earnest and self-aware (*gasp*) is the most authentic one we've seen yet.
At the same time, we can and should also hope that we don't end up looking like blathering fools for believing that this could really be the beginning of a redemption story.