Thursday, December 08, 2016

By Andy Murphy

THE recent article in ‘The Forum’ by Kieran Murphy stated that, “we are proud that our country fights above its weight and in a special way we seek to identify with and take ownership of these mighty achievements”.
He continued sceptically, “which brings us to Conor McGregor and the sport, if we can call it that, of Mixed Martial Arts”.
Now, I agree that Conor is the marmite of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). People either love him or hate him. MMA, however, is actually seen as the fastest growing sport in the world. I like to describe it as the decathlon of combat sports. To be an MMA athlete you have to be well rounded in all areas.
The sport comprises a number of Olympic disciplines such as boxing, wrestling, judo, tae kwon do, and karate to name but a few. It has come a long way in a relatively short time, particularly in Ireland.
On a personal level, I made my amateur MMA debut in O’Loughlin Gaels GAA hall on a show called ‘Extreme Cage Fighting’ back in 2010 in front of just a couple of hundred people.
Fast forward six years and I managed to make my professional debut in the 3 Arena in front of over 6,000 people in September. This came about after a lot of hard work and dedication on my own behalf.
I lose daily in sparring, but I succeed in life. I’m happily married, hold an honours degree along with numerous fitness certificates on top of that, work a full-time job and have a one-year old son.
I train six days a week, twice a day with a minimum of an hour-long trip to and from training. I have worked my ass off for everything that I have.
Yet it goes without saying that Conor has played a huge role in enabling athletes like myself to get the opportunity to compete and showcase our skills on such a fantastic stage like the 3 Arena.
Psychology plays a key role in our sport. Conor understands the art of mental warfare. Yet many don’t. As is the case with most things in life, people fear what they don’t understand.
Yes, he is brash pre-fight, but that is all part of the game. Look at Floyd Mayweather and Mike Tyson in boxing, arguably two of the greatest fighters of all time. They were the exact same.
At the end of the day this isn’t a game of tiddlywinks, it’s fighting. Look at how Conor acts pre-fight versus post-fight. He is in his opponent’s head before a fight and often has the fight won before he even steps foot in the octagon on fight night. Let me be clear here. He isn’t breaking any rules. He’s not on steroids or cheating in any way. It’s mental warfare. And he has it mastered.
Some may see similarities to bullying. I’m sorry, it isn’t the same. Mainly due to the fact that we as fighters sign a contract. We sign up to this. We always have a choice and we know what we have signed up to. We are physically and mentally trained athletes. It’s all part of the game.
Furthermore, look at how Conor talks to or about his opponent post-fight. Most notably there is always a handshake, touch of gloves or embrace in the cage afterwards. Perfect examples of this are the aftermath of his 13-second destruction of Jose Aldo after a year of trash talk, and again after both his win and loss to Nate Diaz.
By my own admission, I was not a massive McGregor fan. In fact, I’m not ashamed to say that I often wanted to see him lose so I could see how he handled defeat. I am a father, and I too want positive role models for my son to look up to.
When finally defeated, arrogant, supremely confident and cocky fighters such as Naseem Hamed in boxing and, you could argue, female MMA superstar Ronda Rousey went in to hiding.
In contrast, Conor made no excuses and was extremely humble in defeat after losing to Nate Diaz.
He got back to work like a true champion does. As children, if we didn’t stand up after falling, we would never learn to walk. Think about it. Winners are not afraid of losing, people who avoid failure also avoid success.
The lesson from this is that it’s ok to fall. Just make sure to get yourself back up. For that reason why shouldn’t Conor be someone for kids to look up to?
I know absolutely nothing about Anthony Foley bar he played for Ireland and Munster in rugby. Therefore I won’t write about him. One thing I will say though is that if he played for his province and country at his chosen sport then he was obviously a master-craftsman and that alone demands respect.
Surely Conor demands the same.

***Andy Murphy is a mixed martial artist and Tinryland native.***

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