On Conor McGregor’s Unfathomable Rise in Modern Sports Culture

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There was a moment when it became clear Conor McGregor was an undeniable force.

It was a little over three years into his UFC run.

He was the reigning featherweight champion of the world and was moments away from becoming the lightweight champion as well—the first man or woman to ever achieve simultaneous reigns in separate divisions in UFC history.

At UFC 205, the promotion’s long-awaited debut in New York City, which emanated from the vaunted Madison Square Garden, McGregor headlined against Eddie Alvarez. Alvarez, for his part, was a worthy adversary in every way, a stalwart who could wrestle and box and had gone 28-of-32 in MMA fights before that night.

McGregor appeared unruffled, however.

Entering the cage, he strutted and swayed about, arms swinging exaggeratedly as if to exude a looseness he apparently felt down to his core. It was the pinnacle of physical confidence, this ability to make something so silly into a foreshadowing of the swaggering way he’d dispatch Alvarez moments later.

What’s more, he aped it from pro wrestling icon Vince McMahon. The “Billionaire Strut” was once a staple of McMahon’s villainous on-air persona. In a way, you can’t get much more absurd than that.

Yet McGregor embraced the absurdity. He doubled down on a mink coat (Note: linked article contains NSFW language) he’d worn days prior at the event’s pre-fight press conference.

“I’m thinking Vince McMahon must be pissed,” he said during a pay-per-view interview in January 2017. “I stole that walk, and that walk is now mine. That’s my walk. I created that walk. I made that walk.”

And it is.

It’s his because while McMahon was doing it for years, it was only after McGregor broke it out moments before his crowning athletic achievement that you started seeing other celebrities and athletes aping him.

That was the moment you could no longer ignore McGregor’s unfathomable rise in modern sports culture. Seeing global superstars pinch his…

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