In the first episode of McGregor Forever, we see the fighter talking in a hospital bed as he’s tending to a broken tibula he suffered in the UFC 264 fight against Dustin Poirier. Conor McGregor admits that there was a point after the injury when he thought his career was over. With an injury like that, it’s hard not to agree. However, there is intercut footage of McGregor sitting in the octagon as defiant as ever – taunting Poirier. This is the same fighter McGregor exhibited graciousness to in their second fight in January 2021. He smiles in a hospital bed and declares, “It’s McGregor Forever. Don’t you forget it.”
This four-part documentary directed by Gotham Chopra is a requiem for the empire McGregor’s fighting ability has built – but simultaneously, wondering where he goes next. There are two parts of love when it comes to combat sports (or any sport in particular) – the rise of a champion and the redemption of one whose fallen. It feels like McGregor’s psyche exists within the middle. He’s still a significant draw in the UFC, and the beginning of Forever quickly chronicles his accomplishments from the double belts and the major boxing fight with Floyd Mayweather.
The man who had a plumbing apprenticeship in Dublin could work hard and almost speak the wealthy, comfortable life he lives now. However, the brashness and boisterous cockiness that makes McGregor so appealing has had a cascading effect as his difficulties have started to pile up. Many athletes cultivate edge and anger to conquer their biggest obstacles – it could be an explosive mix when the aura is not what it used to be.
McGregor Forever chooses the beginning and conclusion of McGregor’s fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2018 as its starting point – a loss that visibly still stings McGregor as you go throughout the documentary. Striking coach Owen Roddy notes that before this fight, McGregor doesn’t necessarily need to fight again – however, there’s the spirit that exists inside him that has something to prove. Chopra intersplices many of McGregor’s older interviews to drive this point home. The pre-fight activities were less than ideal – McGregor got an assault charge, the fight camp leading up to UFC 223 was admittedly darker, and McGregor himself was as aggressive as we’ve seen him. This leads to a loss where people question if McGregor’s star is beginning to falter.
Trainer Colin Byrne speaks about McGregor’s inner fire and asks, “Do you cook the steak or set fire to the house?” The documentary ruminates on it as McGregor has time to be outside the fight game briefly. We get to see candid moments with his wife Devlin and his children, where McGregor is softer and another form of himself that could evolve if he stepped away from the UFC entirely. As these four episodes chronicle, he has enough outside commitments to keep him busy. There’s no shortage of business endeavors and speaking engagements McGregor doesn’t have. But that’s not how he sees this story ending – a warrior mentality of writing your own ending exists.
It seems like an easy plan when you’re dominant and at the top of your game – but doubt starts to seep through when things such as inactivity and losses build. After his win against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone at UFC 246, the UFC and McGregor hit an impasse on what the next fight was. Then, there was an impromptu retirement (one that many people didn’t buy) and a suspicion that this journey would end sooner than expected. Most importantly, without McGregor going out swinging.
His loss against Dustin Poirier in UFC 257 is where the chatter of the end started to rise (Chopra adds soundbites to various sports commentators). That’s where McGregor puts on his persona to combat that – it’s interesting because most of this documentary shows that he’s evolving into something completely different. McGregor Forever asks whether the chip on your shoulder can be used as a weapon to confront inevitability. The fight game is random and sometimes unforgiving. When you’re on a losing streak, sometimes you can’t get off it. Then there are those rare moments when you get on a roll and reclaim the essence of what made you excellent – albeit rare.
Listening to the various voice (including McGregor’s), they believe he can turn the tide. You have to admire the hunger still being present despite all the accolades. The task at hand is for McGregor to make those things visible in the road ahead other than behind him.