A fighter afforded an easy ride through the featherweight division, they complain.
A man whose media savvy and crafted image carry more weight than his ability in the octagon, they point out.
Bottom line? Sooner or later, he would be found out. Those who doubt him think it will come when he approaches the actual summit, as he does in July when he attempts to relieve Brazil’s Jose Aldo of the UFC featherweight belt in Las Vegas.
They were wrong. He was found out yesterday. And in his hometown, of all places. In Dublin for the last stop of a marathon promotional tour that has taken in eight cities in three different continents across just 12 days, it was Aldo who admitted to a sense of “exhaustion” but McGregor who, wait for it, was lost for words.
Who’d have guessed it?
It was his bio that caught him out, a slim A4 information pack handed out to the media yesterday prior to a near two-hour Q&A that preceded a fan session with the fighters and UFC president Dana White at the capital’s Convention Centre.
‘English and Irish’ it said in the section marked ‘languages’. Just so happened that an Irish-language reporter was there in the scrum and, though ‘The Notorious’ handled ‘Conas atá tú?' breezily enough, the follow-up left him stumped.
Educated in Gaelscoileanna in Tallaght and Lucan, the 26-year old was ultimately left to scramble for the ‘cúpla focal’. “I’m a bit rusty now,” he laughed before predicting a knockout in the fourth minute of the first round ‘as gailege’.
“I need to brush up on that, yeah? One hundred per cent. I can understand what you are saying because I was fluent. I have been in an Irish school my whole life and now I can’t even ... I have it there, I just need to brush up on it.”
It was entertaining to see the man react to being rocked back on his heels for a change, if only momentarily and over something so trifling. The laugh and smile were genuine and the bluster dispensed with for just the narrowest of windows.
That aside, it was business as usual as the fighters went about the business of selling their wares.
McGregor spoke again about the fighting Irish, how he was doing this to secure his family’s future and a proposed title defence in Croke Park.
He’s said it all before, many a time, and there was a clear sense of this last leg being one too many as reporters failed to squeeze a new angle out of this long-running soap opera before the credits rolled and the real rehearsals began. There was some trash talk, most of it perfunctory, like a script devoid of inflection.
The ‘incident’ on Canadian TV recently where McGregor touched Aldo’s neck and sparked a reaction was revisited, but that was a well long run dry.
It was all in marked contrast to the anarchic scenes some hours later when a few thousand people spilled into the arena, McGregor grabbed the belt to the chagrin of the champ and wrapped an adoring crowd around his finger.
And then the talking and the tomfoolery was done.
“It’s good to wrap this up here,” said McGregor.
“It’s good for me to feel this energy before going into camp to prepare. The tour? It was brilliant. Every city we went to was brilliant. We went to Rio and it was intense. Vegas, Cali, Boston, New York, Toronto. It was crazy.”
He had made a promise in the Soho Hotel in London the day before. “I’ll smack him in Ireland,” he had said. He didn’t, but the time for fighting wasn’t yesterday.