One of the biggest — and ugliest — headlines coming out of the MayMac World Tour had to do with Conor McGregor and the issue of race.
McGregor, the UFC lightweight champion, made some off-hand comments about African Americans during the four-day, four-city tour on stage with Floyd Mayweather. McGregor’s father Tony, though, told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour that he knows that his son is not a racist, calling those who bring that up “race-baiters.”
“Conor McGregor is not racist,” Tony McGregor said. “This fight is not about race, this fight is about skill and technique. In fact, I don't think any fight is ever about race. The color of skin is immaterial. It’s the victory that Conor is looking for. It's imperative, that’s the only thing I'd say in that.”
McGregor, an Irishman, told Mayweather on tour stops in Los Angeles and Toronto to dance for him, calling the boxer the racially charged pejorative of “boy.” “The Notorious” has used “boy” in describing other opponents, from Chad Mendes to Nate Diaz to Eddie Alvarez, in the past.
But things got decidedly more dicey last Thursday in Brooklyn when McGregor said he would address the race issue while on stage. McGregor said he couldn’t possibly be a racist, because he's half black — “from the belly button down.” He then did a hip-thrusting, gyrating dance as a “present” for his “beautiful black female fans.”
There was also confusion and outrage over a comment McGregor made in an interview with “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” McGregor said he wasn't sure if Rocky 3 was the movie with the “dancing monkeys in the gym.” Many took that as a racist remark about an African American gym in the film.
Mayweather spoke to reporters backstage after the in-arena show and tore into McGregor for those things.
“He totally disrespected my daughter, he disrespected the mother of my daughter, he disrespected black women and he called black people monkeys,” Mayweather said. “What I want to say is this: I’m proud to be a black man. I’m proud to be an American, and I love everybody. And I have a diverse team.
“You can't do that. Conor McGregor, you cannot disrespect black women, you can't disrespect black people -- period. We’ve been through a lot.”
McGregor dismissed the accusations that he was a racist during the London tour stop Friday as “f*cking ridiculous.” But he did acknowledge that making light of the issue in Brooklyn didn't work the way he hoped. He lost the crowd after that.
“It didn’t really hit right,” said McGregor, who will fight Mayweather in a boxing match Aug. 26 in Las Vegas. “I’m just gonna stay where it is and leave it out. I know who I am as a person. I think most realistic people can look and know.”
Tony McGregor, the MMA superstar’s father, is sure that his son is not how he has been perceived through those controversial comments.
“Conor is absolutely, unequivocally not racist,” Tony McGregor said. “It’s not about skin color. No two combatants would ever get into a ring and the issue would be the color of their opposing skin. No, absolutely not. It’s a fight issue, not a race issue.”