Before UFC, Conor McGregor made a living fixing toilets

Lynn Farah, South China Morning Post

Posted at Dec 10 2020 01:05 PM

MMA fighter Conor McGregor might be No 16 on Forbes’ “World’s Highest Paid Athletes 2020” list, but he didn’t always live that rich life. Before his “money fight” with Floyd Mayweather – the one that earned him US$100 million – the Irishman was born into a working-class family and had a stint waking up at 5am to hitch rides to fix people’s toilets for a living. But he risked a stable job to follow his dreams and it all paid off.

Here’s what life looked like for McGregor before the US$3.4 million supercar, before the private jets and expensive watches, signature whiskey line and the expensive jewellery gifts for fiancée Dee Devlin.

He was bullied at school

He might be feared in the octagon today, but the MMA champ was bullied when he was a boy growing up in Ireland. He apparently used to get teased regularly by older kids and sometimes things would turn physical. If he wasn’t able to dodge the schoolboy fights McGregor’s strategy was to keep a dumbbell in his bag in case he needed a weapon to defend himself.

He used to be a plumber

Before his MMA career kicked off, McGregor was an apprentice plumber who spent up to 12 hours a day fixing pipes and toilets. He told The Guardian, “I was waking at 5am and walking in the dark, freezing cold until I reached the motorway and waited for a guy I didn’t even know to take me to the site … I know there are passionate, skilled plumbers. But I had no love for plumbing.”

His parents didn’t approve of his career switch

He started out training at a local boxing club in between work shifts and taking part in competitive fights on weekends. But soon he decided to quit plumbing to train full time. His parents didn’t approve initially, but McGregor said he needed to follow his dreams.

He relied on social welfare

Despite having some minor victories as a fighter when he first started out, for a while McGregor still had to rely on social welfare to get by, once picking up a US$235 welfare cheque before his UFC debut.