Conor McGregor (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

How Conor McGregor ‘Trump’d’ the Fight Game

Conor McGregor and Donald Trump.

Both men have healthy egos, healthy bank accounts and a branding of wealth, but that may be where the similarities end. Or is it?

McGregor and Trump used similar game plans to rise to prominence in their chosen endeavors. A closer look at these two men shows how similar they truly are. It’s the relevance they have gained outside of their initial place of success that is most interesting.


The Rise

Trump has risen more than once and for different reasons. Once, he did it in financial prominence. More recently, it’s been a rise in political prominence. Trump’s rise, as well as McGregor’s, could have only been achieved one way. They had to show some acumen. For all the haters that both men have, they would have never reached the initial success and stage they did without having ability. McGregor is a knockout artist, and Trump is a deal maker. This is what gave their supporters faith and drew in those who doubted them, looking to poke holes in the legitimacy of their skills.

Controlling the Narrative

Trump is a master at manipulating public perception. So is McGregor. Trump has one of the most carefully crafted images in world history. It’s not that he doesn’t have flaws or skeletons, but he just doesn’t acknowledge them. In Trump’s eyes, if he doesn’t admit it, then it didn’t happen. He has complete control of his public perception by only accepting those things that paint him in a positive light or, more accurately, the light he wants to be painted. Even when his guard is down, it’s up. When he agreed to the Comedy Central Roast, he had a very specific list of off-limits topics. Most of them surrounded his wealth. He portrays himself as one of the richest guys in the world on The Apprentice, and also as an all-knowing businessman who always makes the right decision and gets the job done.

McGregor is every bit as calculating as Trump, but in different ways. He’s much more humble in both victory and defeat than Trump will ever be. But he also grooves his career in such a way that it always has him in a certain type of light as well. He, like Trump, is very aware of the media and knows what is out there. He promotes the things that help his brand and attacks the things that don’t. He, like Trump, plays social media like a fiddle to control the perception of those who are watching.

Both men bend the truth to show a position of strength on social media. Both men are very timely and calculated with their tweets. The other interesting parallel is that both rose to popularity without really seeking it. They conduct their lives and their affairs in the way they want to and yet they have massive followings, clowning and marginalizing their opponents along the way.

Setting the Terms

Trump made a career of setting the terms. He always negotiates from a position of power and ensures that he is perceived powerfully. Trump would rather pass on a deal if he didn’t believe he got the best of it or all his terms were met. In fact, once he realized his value, he ensured he had his way. He deals in tough negotiations in business, with networks, and even with political parties. Trump knew he was box office in all three and ensured that he was compensated properly for it. He also used his cache to determine the tone of debates and whether he would be a part of them. He dictated the terms of his candidacy and now his presidency. He is unwavering in his resolve to do what he thinks is right.

Similarly, once McGregor established himself as a box-office draw, he dictated terms as well. In so much as he says, he will fight anyone and most certainly believes he can. His ascension in the ranks is due partly to his opponent choice. He has a decided advantage over everyone. He’s big for his weight class. He has welterweight power and knocked heads off of featherweights with his power. Speaking of the welterweight division, he used his bargaining power to dictate the terms of his Nate Diaz fight and the subsequent rematch. The only weight class that truly made sense for those fights was 170 pounds. That way, if McGregor won, he would become relevant as a welterweight. If he lost, he didn’t lose relevance as a lightweight. If McGregor fought Diaz at 155 pounds, he may never have fought Eddie Alvarez for the title and captured his second belt. Even using the rematch as unfinished business and having it take place at 170 was a genius move to keep 155 in play.

Barack and Floyd

This brings us to the game-changing moment for these men. They each needed an adversary at the top of the game that they wanted to get into. For Trump, it was President Barack Obama. Trump went after Obama with a fury, and it was with one goal in my mind. Once Obama acknowledged or replied, it put them on the same level. They are now rivals. Trump went after Obama on all fronts, the birth certificate being the biggest and most drawn-out attempt by Trump to discredit Obama. The mistake Obama made was he engaged. The White House Correspondent’s dinner where he eviscerated Trump was thought to dismiss Trump, but it only made him stronger. With every joke, those who disliked Obama started liking Trump and a political base was born.

In the same way, McGregor drew elite boxer Floyd Mayweather out. He spoke about Mayweather every time the subject was available to him, whether it was in regards to Ronda Rousey or Manny Pacquiao. Then, slowly but surely, it turned. ESPN interviews, tweets, TMZ interviews, and boxing licenses followed. McGregor put himself on Floyd’s radar. Mayweather took Conor’s drawing power seriously, but not yet the proposition of him as an opponent. Much like Trump being president, Mayweather vs. McGregor was…

The Laughing Stock

Through the majority of the Trump campaign, no one took his presidential chances very seriously. Liberals mocked him for the way he spoke or, more accurately, misspoke. Conservatives wanted nothing to with him, because they thought he couldn’t win. He couldn’t win in the primaries, they said, and then he won. He’ll get killed in the debates, they said, and then he didn’t. He’ll never get the nomination, they said, and then he did. How can Hillary Clinton lose to the “grab em by the pussy” guy, they wondered, and then she lost and Trump became the 45th President of the United States.

The same concept applies Mayweather-McGregor. It was deemed a waste of time by the media to even discuss, since it will never happen. This fight continues to grow now as more and more media members and promoters realize there is really money to be had. The highest draw for either fighter is to fight each other. Much like Trump, the mega-fight has started to make a lot of sense to a lot of people. Also like Trump, it doesn’t mean it should happen, but the amount of money that stands to be made it too much to ignore.

In the end, much like Trump, McGregor may get the last laugh.