There's a story often told about the early days of Conor McGregor whereby he ran off with some of coach John Kavanagh’s money and “the wrong crowd” after a defeat and wasn’t seen in the gym for weeks.
He was going to give it all up and chuck in the towel, but his mother called Kavanagh about an intervention. The rest is history and ended up in a meteoric rise to global stardom, a movie and the biggest grossing fight in history in August.
But the dream has turned sour. It could be time for another intervention.
There has always been a split when it comes to Conor McGregor. I’d guess at (a very unscientific) 70/30 with the majority in his favour, but always a fair share of haters.
All the same words are bandied around in the debate about him.
“Irish begrudgers”, “too big for his boots”, “Bad role model”.
And it’s always been a very heated debate. Not quite Roy Keane Saipan, but not far off.
I was always a super-fan. A hard loyalist who sat up watching videos until 2 in the morning, lapping up his talk of "visualising the future". I was obsessed. It felt like being a kid again watching Ryan Giggs.
It was impossible not to be beguiled by the phenomenon and his quotes and images were saved on my desktop as a constant reminder to work harder and dream bigger.
I always overlooked the criticism because I felt there was serious bias in the coverage. The mainstream media couldn't stand the apple cart being rattled by a sport that many see as barbaric.
He’s in the business of knocking people out cold and thats not going to be to everyone's taste. I loved his smack talk and brashness just as much as others hated it.
But in the last couple of months everything has changed. The $100 million Mayweather purse and cocktail of celebrity and partying has gone to his head. I was stunned that the Glasgow story wasn’t bigger at the time.
Everybody is allowed to celebrate, but you can't demand that level of attention then want privacy.
There have been all sorts of whispers on the Dublin scene about his lifestyle and the partying seems to have spiralled of late.
While before it was all an act aimed at selling fights, building a brand and attracting a following, the main focus was always on becoming a world class athlete. The best fighter in the world. As McGregor said himself he was obsessed and that obsession was what we all bought into.
On Friday as I watched him running across the Octagon and swinging punches at officials I genuinely felt sorry for the guy. It's like his head has gone. It’s slipped from measured control and being on top of every element of his game to seeing even hard core seasoned MMA fans and pundits turning against him. I certainly did.
The only thing that can save him now is a fight. Going back to basics and what got him here. Thats what he does best, what made him all the money and garnered a global following.
Were it not for him being the UFC’s golden goose he’d have a two-year ban by now and be finished.
As it is, they’ll probably dress it up as a 3-6 month ban and have him back for a Paddy’s day showpiece. What happens between now and then is the interesting part.
My friends, colleagues and especially Irish journalists are now able to say “I told you so” and I have to look at my feet and say they were right. I backed the wrong horse.
The only redeeming factor here is that the fight game loves a good comeback story, and I am seriously hoping for one - but I fear McGregor might yet have further to fall.