A curious interview. Of course it didn’t help that Ariel Helwani and ESPN treated the roll-out of it, like they were issuing the first dispatches from the Cuban missile crisis.
Ariel, lest we forget, was one of the earlier subscribers to the Conor Mcgregor story before the Crumlin native ever set foot inside an Octagon. He has skin in the game so to speak. With that it mind, it comes as no surprise that McGregor chose the Ariel Helwani show, on ESPN, to issue a mea-culpa on his unprovoked striking of a 50 year old man in a pub last April.
This is first time that McGregor has done an interview on an MMA platform, that I can think of, not directly related to a fight in 2 or 3 years. Conor McGregor will have seen the reaction to the pub video footage over the last week and sensed that it had the potential to be the straw that broke the camel’s back with his fans. Not the hard-core fans but his millions of casual fans around the world.
Ariel is his go to media guy where a light touch and some latitude are required. Good call on his part.
Helwani soft-balled him for much of the 40 minute discourse but we got plenty of new information along with a full apology for his behaviour.
Ariel is in a catch 22 situation to be fair. McGregor has some talking points he want to get across for damage limitation and if Helwani pushes back too hard the interview may well have been done on his own platform ‘ The Mac Life’ or one of the many dozens of Combat Sports platforms available State-side.
We did learn the following.
- He is only just recovered and back grappling after a left hand break that required an operation. This was sustained in a heavy sparring session.
- Unhappiness and tension in the training camp prior to the Khabib fight. At one point describes it as ‘ half a camp’
- admits his relationship with Coach John Kavanagh requires a lot of re-energising
I thought Helwani could have pushed harder on that last point. There still seems to be unresolved issues here. Even after nearly a year.
Is John Kavanagh, definitively, going to be his coach for his next UFC fight?
Will he be perhaps expanding the coaching team?.
The hand injury was picked up in a sparring accident and he seemed to indicate that perhaps this could and should have been avoided.
Ariel has revealed that this interview, more or less, came out of the blue in the last 24 hours and was initiated on the McGregor side. This tallies with the McGregor that appeared before the camera. He looked at times flustered and his delivery of answers was very quick and jumpy. He for sure seems re-energized to fight again, and fight multiple times but I get the sense the team and plan is not fully in place yet. Maybe the Hand injury was the cause of this who knows.
The apology sounded sincere and wasn’t couched with qualifying excuses. He repeatedly admitted he was wrong to have hit the man and indeed bore responsibility verbally for the accumulation of offences going right back to the Bus incident in New York.
Helwani did ask McGregor if he thought he might have anger management issues. It was at this stage of the Interview the Dubliner looked at his most squeamish. It wasn’t that he was avoided the question or dismissed it, but that it might not have actually occurred to him before. The segment ended with him saying repeatedly that he would work tirelessly on eliminating these incidents in the future. As much as we would like to believe him – he’s used up so much of his public goodwill – That promises will need to be backed up with evidence.
When he started talking about potential fights, it’s the most engaged and animated I have seen him since about 2015. There was no shit-talking of opponents but just a long stream of consciousness processing of about 5 or 6 different opponents. If I was to guess, based off this conversation, his next opponent will be Max Holloway with Frankie Edgar a close second in the pecking order. Expect to see him out again in December.
One minor issue I have with ESPN and Ariel Helwani is a technical one, they have chosen to release the Interview in 7 minute segments on Youtube in the initial hours post Interview release. Presumably to milk clicks. Based on analyzing the views in the first 3 hours post release this has backfired. He should have posted the full 40 minute piece in one segment. McGregor interviews normally storm thru the 100,000 views mark within an hour.
Is it a sign of poor ESPN execution or is the McGregor brand genuinely on the wane?
Finally, it would help if Helwani stopped falling over himself publicly thanking McGregor for the Interview. If there was ever an instance of McGregor needing someone more than they needed him…………. this was it.