Early morning sunlight streams through the windows of Conor McGregor’s home in Ladycastle, County Kildare. The former UFC star breathes deeply as he poses, butt up, in a beautiful downward-facing dog stance. It is here, on his paisley-patterned yoga mat, that he looks truly at peace.
It came as a blow to UFC fans across the globe last month when McGregor announced that he would be ending his career as a mixed martial artist in order to pursue his dream of becoming a Bikram yoga teacher. The Crumlin native had an extremely successful career in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, which promotes the sport of Mixed Martial Arts, winning the titles of the Featherweight and Lightweight divisions. A now serene McGregor, stunningly balanced in an elegant Tree Pose, tells us that those titles are “nothing” compared to the inner-happiness he feels now when his chakras are in perfect balance.
When asked what brought about such a change, Conor says, “I started listening to the teachings of my Soul.” He speaks in a thick Dublin accent about his first encounter with yoga. The burly fighter accidentally wandered into the Himalaya Yoga Centre, thinking it was the weights room of a local gym. “It was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. I’d literally eaten like fifteen Quest bars before going in and I was still bate by the end of it. Do you know how hard it is to do a Half-Lotus Crow? Really fucking hard. Going 5-rounds with Nate Diaz is like senior-citizen pool aerobics compared to that shit.”
McGregor credits the practise of yoga with the transformation that has come about in his temperament. Infamous for being well-versed in trash talk and rowdy behavior, the fighter recalls a UFC conference in which he showed up, late, head to toe in designer clothing, ranting and raving- “I’m a fucking pimp! Rocking Gucci mink!” Conor appears regretful. “Christ, I was such a gobshite. But, yoga it-… it really helped me distance myself from that. Calmed me right the fuck down.”
Conor says it was around the time he started forgetting who people were, including people who he was literally about to fight, whose names would be displayed on massive posters in front of him at conferences, that he realised something was wrong. “I’d be there shouting, ‘Who? Who the fuck is that? Who the fuck is Eddy?’ and Eddy Alvarez would be right next to me. Eventually it started happening with family members, too. My mam would tell me my granny had called over for a visit, and I’d be there screaming ‘Who? Who the fuck is granny?’ right in her tiny wrinkled face. I knew something had to change, but I didn’t know what to do.”
The fighter says he believes he found the practise of yoga through his sacral chakra, the chakra of accepting new experiences, guiding him to the yoga centre.
“I’m really excited for this new phase in my life, and I think my family and friends are too. All that cocky, machismo attitude was probably getting a bit old.” He laughs. Oh, Conor, you have no idea.