An access-all-areas pass into the world of Conor McGregor
UFC’s Conor McGregor allows the cameras to follow him over four years, culminating with his debut boxing bout against Floyd Mayweather Jr.Notorious has been the title for a number of films – each one very different in both theme and genre. There have been the various film adaptations of the life of rapper Notorious B.I.G, as well as the 1946 Alfred Hitchcock film Notorious which starred Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman - to name just a couple of examples. However in this particular instance, Notorious is in reference to Dublin-born Conor McGregor. Now those who aren’t fans of UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), may not have known the name Conor McGregor until recently, when he swapped mixed martial arts for boxing in his debut fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr. – a fight that he did ultimately lose, but not before he managed to hold out for 10 rounds against one of the most skilful boxers of all time.
This remarkable documentary was filmed over four years by director Gavin Fitzgerald, who had almost unfettered access to his subject, thus providing a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes. Notorious follows Conor McGregor as he moves from living with his girlfriend, Dee Devlin, at his mum’s house in Dublin to eventually becoming the first UFC fighter to hold two belts (featherweight and lightweight) at the same time – and not to mention bagging some fairly substantial purses at the same time, making McGregor a rich man. It's a genuine rags to riches story and McGregor provides the filmmakers with an access-all-areas pass for the journey. The documentary kicks off in Dublin as McGregor is waiting to hear back about a UFC fight which eventually takes him, and us, over to Las Vegas.
With all the glitz and glamour that you would expect from Vegas there are moments in the documentary that feel a little bit like MTV’s Cribs as McGregor leads us around the house he and his entourage stay at whilst training for his upcoming fight. Any negativity that could result from these stylised segments dissipates as McGregor explains, as he does so on many occasions, that all he wanted in life was to fight and have a loads of money. And it’s his honesty, that never comes across as uncouth or in bad taste, that makes this documentary enjoyable. His disbelief almost mirrors ours as he galavants about in expensive three piece suits and ridiculous fur coats and has the money to buy his girlfriend a brand new car.
The documentary follows the three UFC fights that McGregor has, the first is with Jose Aldo who was the pound-for-pound best fighter at the time - that is until his fight with McGregor; the second against Chad Mendes a former wrestler and the finally his fight against Nate Diaz, who won their first fight but lost in a rematch. Having never watched UFC before (being more of a boxing fan) I had no idea just how brutal and bloody the sport was. It’s during the fights that the documentary really kicks off and it is difficult not to get swept up in the commotion and electric atmosphere within the arena.
All the bravado and trash talk aside, McGregor comes across as a genuinely nice guy
To be honest there isn’t that much more to the documentary as a whole which is a bit of shame as it would have been nice to gain more of an insight into McGregor before he became rich and famous within the UFC world. There are a few snippets of him growing up but nothing that substantial and this does result in the film feeling a little egotistical and self indulgent. The filmmakers stay out of sight for the duration leaving McGregor to dictate what gets said and seen. There is a rather endearing scene though when Arnold Schwarzenegger pays a visit to the house McGregor and Co. are staying at, which quite successfully reminds the audience that they are very much not of this ‘rich and famous’ glitzy world - this for me was one of the film's best moments.
While the documentary doesn’t shy away from the brutality inherent in the world of UFC fighting or the commitment its fighters are required to have, it’s still missing something. Whether it is the lack of real insight into the socio-historical background of McGregor or perhaps it is the decision to only predominantly use the seemingly fun, good-times footage over the course of four years, I don’t know. There is of course no denying that McGregor is a champion who has successfully dedicated his whole life to his chosen field, that said, I don’t think Notorious warrants the need to be seen on the big screen. It’s more of a Saturday night in with a few beers and a pizza type of entertainment - or maybe a protein shake and a steak.
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