Of all the fights you’d expect to see in 2023, Conor ‘Notorious’ McGregor vs autistic battle rapper on social media probably wasn’t on anyone’s card.

That’s exactly what we got though when Scott Moore, AKA Scomo, was dismissive of the fighter’s aspirations to become president of Ireland. McGregor hit back by making fun of his rival’s pimples, describing him as “a little freak” and dubbing him an “Orange b*****d”. Scomo dismissed the Dubliner as a “keyboard warrior”.

But how did we get here, how did a man who was once the face of the UFC become an internet edgelord pushing right-wing politics? It’s been a wild ride for a man dubbed ‘Notorious’.

Read More: Javier Milei: Goalkeeper, Rolling Stone impersonator, president

Coming out fighting

McGregor was, according to his father Tony, born with his fists clenched coming out of the womb. McGregor senior was the son of a petty officer with the British Merchant Navy, who raised the family alone when his wife ran off with another man while he was at sea.

Tony met his wife Margaret, Conor’s mother, on the way to school at 16 and they were married five years later, with McGregor Sr working as a taxi driver to make ends meet.

Despite his larger-than-life persona these days, the young McGregor was by all accounts fairly quiet. Even when he discovered boxing aged 12 there was little of the trash talking, swaggering fighter who would one day become the biggest name in MMA.

McGregor left school as quickly was allowed and took on a plumbing apprenticeship, lasting less than a year. He scraped a living on the dole and by earning a few hundred Euros per bout fighting on the amateur MMA circuit.

In March 2008 he fought his first professional fight, defeating Gary Morris in a technical knockout. MMA, which stands for mixed martial arts, is a brutal sport, combining elements of boxing with Brazilian jiu-jitsu. In its early days it would often pit fighters from different disciplines against each other in a clash of styles, a largely lawless world which sought only to establish the Ultimate Fighting Champion.

By the time McGregor was coming up the sport had professionalised, introducing weight divisions, gloves and banning certain hits such as elbow strikes to the head. Still, it’s a dangerous business. Since 2007 there have been six deaths in officially sanctioned MMA matches, most recently in 2019 when 26-year-old Saeideh Aletaha died in hospital after being knocked out in the third round of a contest at Central Hall in Southampton.

The Irishman rose quickly through the ranks, and by the time UFC president Dana White visited the Emerald Isle in February 2013 there was a clamour for him to sign the Dubliner. White acceded days later and by April the 24-year-old was fighting Marcus Brimage in Stockholm.

A technical and precise striker who was light on his feet and capable of moving quickly around the octagon, McGregor danced away from a barrage of punches from the American before landing a vicious volley of his own to knock Brimage down and take a first round victory.

“I didn’t really have a game plan,” McGregor shrugged in his post-fight interview. “I think Marcus got a little bit emotional with the Irish support getting on his back… this is a little bit like the WWE to me, I’m just playing a game.”

A star was born.

The Herald: Conor McGregor

The face of the franchise

If McGregor was a great fighter – and he was, he won his first seven UFC matches with just one going to the judges – his trash talking was even more valuable. When he faced Jose Aldo to unify the featherweight championship, the Irishman taunted his Brazilian opponent for months beforehand.

“If this was a different time,” he said at an event in Rio de Janeiro. “I’d invade his favela on horseback and kill anyone who wasn’t fit to work.” The crowd booed furiously. “But this is a different time to I’ll whoop his arse in July.”

By the time the fight came around it was being billed as perhaps the most anticipated in the history of the sport. McGregor won by knockout in 13 seconds.

Though his first UFC loss would follow in 2016 so would superstar status, the Irishman appearing on Conan O’Brien to play video games, signing endorsement deals with the likes of Beats By Dre and Budweiser and challenging Floyd Mayweather to a boxing match, McGregor feeling he had outgrown the UFC.

Though dismissed as a gimmick by many, that bout did eventually take place in 2017 in Nevada. Though he lost the fight McGregor took home an estimated $130m between the purse and pay-per-view takings.

However, the less savoury aspects of McGregor’s character would soon make themselves known.

Fall from grace

In March 2019 McGregor was accused of sexual assault against a woman in Dublin the previous year, though prosecutors eventually opted not to proceed with the case. That same year the fighter was arrested for in Florida for grabbing a phone from a fan and destroying it, a matter which was settled out of court.

In August video published by TMZ Sports published a video showing McGregor punching an older man, Desmond Keogh, at the Marble Arch pub in Dublin, after he refused a drink of whiskey. The 31-year-old pleaded guilty and was fined €1,000. He later bought the pub and tweeted that Mr Keogh was barred.

In 2020 he was arrested on suspicion of attempted sexual assault and indecent exposure for an incident alleged to have taken place in a bar in Corsica, with the charges later dropped by French police due to a lack of evidence. An Italian DJ accused the fighter of breaking his nose in 2021, while earlier this year a 42-year-old woman alleged she’d been assaulted by McGregor on a yacht in Spain. That lawsuit was later dropped with no reason given.

The Herald: Conor McGregor court case

Political move?

It would hardly be unprecedented for a fighter to make the move into politics. Former boxing world heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko is the mayor of Kyiv, while Manny Pacquiao was a senator in his native Philippines.

If McGregor’s political aspirations are serious though he’s taking a far more extreme approach than either of those two did.

Following the stabbing of a woman and three children, allegedly by an Algerian immigrant who had become an Irish citizen in 2014, McGregor tweeted that his country was “at war” and responded to a tweet by far-right Britain First leader Paul Golding saying “there will be a change in Ireland, mark my words” – though he did condemn riots which broke out in the wake of the stabbings.

He’s since criticised Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for his views on immigration and for failing to mention Hamas when an Irish hostage was freed by the group. McGregor has floated plans to run for president of Ireland, with Elon Musk endorsing the idea he could beat competition from Gerry Adams, Enda Kenny and Bertie Ahern. The 35-year-old has said there would be “votes every week” to ensure direct democracy, though the role is largely ceremonial and he wouldn’t have the power to call votes.

Are we looking at Ireland’s next head of state then? Well, probably not. McGregor made his name talking smack after all, and has previously declared his intention to buy Celtic and Manchester United.

Perhaps what we’re really seeing here is a man who, as his fighting career fades, is simply searching for a way to remain notorious.