Conor McGregor: Trips to welfare office were source of motivation


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The city of Dublin has no shortage of lovely spots that are easy on the eye and a visitor’s delight, but Tower Road in the suburb of Clondalkin will never be described as one of them.

Midway along a tight street, a single lane of often-congested traffic in each direction, is a plain brick office building where local jobseekers go in search of gainful work and to collect welfare checks to tide them over to the next week.

Opposite is a former pharmacy, now bricked up, and next to that a postal center, where the services provided also include a kiosk where the welfare payments can be distributed and received.

Conor McGregor is expected to make more than $100 million when he fights Floyd Mayweather in a Las Vegas boxing ring on Aug. 26 but even if some unforeseen calamity cancels the fight, he no longer has a need to pass through Tower Road, or the local office of Intreo, Ireland’s national employment service.

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Yet just over four years ago, in early April 2013, McGregor patiently took his place in line, got his final social payment of 188 Euros ($221), then queued to collect it at the post office. The wait nearly caused him to miss his flight to Sweden, where he would make his Ultimate Fighting Championship debut days later, but he made it just in time.

“I told them at the welfare office, I’m about to start fighting in the UFC,” McGregor said. “We will see what happens.” In Stockholm, he knocked out Marcus Brimage in 67 seconds, collected a $60,000 check for Performance of the Night, and began a remarkable journey to fame and fortune. He’s never cashed another welfare check, instead collecting seven-figure sums after becoming the biggest draw in mixed martial arts.

McGregor’s fighting and promotional commitments are such that it would be easier in many ways for him to be permanently based in the United States, but you can forget about that happening.

The 29-year-old is a true son of Dublin, the Irish boy from his country’s capital proudly wearing the nation’s colors and making sure home is not only where the heart is, but where he and his family rest their heads.

McGregor now sees a side of Dublin that was closed off to him as a youngster, his wealth providing a lifestyle vastly different from his working-class youth. It is easy and common for young men to forget their humble beginnings in such situations and on the surface McGregor would appear to be one of those, all mink coats and rented supercars and gaudy displays of wealth.

Yet for all the flash there is one spot that never fails to keep him somewhat grounded, Tower Road and all its memories, a place he seeks out whenever he returns home and one that offers an eternal reminder of how quickly he has risen.

“I always make a point to see it, look back, reminisce and pinch myself that I’m in this position,” McGregor said. “But (I) never stare. If you stare, you stay there. I look, pay homage and use it as fuel to keep going. I never become complacent or comfortable. Those are my people. I’ve never changed. Ask anyone.”

McGregor’s loud proclamations of self-worth and the nature of the sport he has mastered is not for everyone, especially in the snootier sections of Irish society. Among the working classes in his homeland, however, he is truly beloved, seen as the boy who made good yet never disrespected his past.

“I’m the same person,” McGregor added. “I’ve never had to change. I show up to the gym. I work hard. I show my hard work. I gain my confidence. It’s been the same since day one. What I wear to the gym, my home that I go home to – those things have changed. They’ve become nicer. From the mental standpoint, it’s stayed the same.”

That hunger has served him well in the octagon, though whether it is enough to overcome the natural disadvantage he has as a boxing newcomer in facing Mayweather, one of the sweet science’s all-time greats, remains to be seen. Regardless, nearly five million people are expected to pay to find out, boosting McGregor’s earnings beyond his wildest dreams.

“I’ve come from shows I’m fighting in front of 100 people and 75 of those are friends of those on the undercard,” McGregor added, referring to his time on the Irish MMA circuit before he got his UFC opportunity. “That’s where I’ve come from four years ago. I’ve come a long way. It’s been a hell of a journey.”

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