Movie Review: “Conor McGregor: Notorious”

This past summer, UFC fighter Conor McGregor lost to Floyd Mayweather in a highly publicized boxing match. The fight was McGregor’s first time in the ring as a professional boxer, however, he does currently hold a UFC belt (and has held other others in the past). In short, he is a man who knows what he is doing inside a ring and the new documentary about him, “Conor McGregor: Notorious,” offers up a look at how he got to his current position in the sporting world.

Directed by Gavin Fitzgerald, “Notorious” immediately offers up McGregor as a brash individual, someone who is quick with his mouth but more than has the ability to back it up with his body. Filmed over the course of four years, Fitzgerald traces McGregor’s rise in UFC and some of the pitfalls he encountered along the way. It is an amazing rags-to-riches story and does everything it can to place the audience in McGregor’s corner.

It is not, however, terribly insightful. We watch as McGregor quickly (very quickly) works his way up to UFC title fights, to incredible riches, to stardom. We see that he trains hard, that he has a girlfriend (and eventually a child), that he’s living his dream and meeting people like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but after watching the documentary I am not terribly sure that I could tell you very much about the man himself, the real person behind the persona that is Conor McGregor.

Even so, as McGregor is such a compelling personality, it all nearly works. One can’t quite escape the feeling though that something about Notorious seems off. For instance, if at the start of the film he really is the small-time fighter he’s portrayed as, why are there cameras following him? He is not signed to UFC at this point, it’s still just a hope, does every up-and-coming potential UFC fighter have a camera crew with them? Later, we hear about McGregor training and then fighting through an injury that should leave him unable to walk. As presented, he clearly does it, but one can’t help but wonder if that’s right.

This is a superhuman, Rocky-esque, real life story (complete with reversals), and I am not arguing the film’s veracity (I do not know enough about McGregor’s true history to make any such claims), just that it feels too perfect, it feels too much like propaganda. Whether it’s true or not, one gets the sense that they’re being oversold. “Notorious” oozes the impression that this is a highly controlled look at the man.

Some of this is because while there are titles from time to time, there’s no voiceover to provide more of a detailed, nuanced, look than what can be gleaned from the basic interviews and fly on the wall format utilized by Fitzgerald. This is further enhanced by knowing that McGregor’s production company was involved in making the movie and McGregor himself is listed as an executive producer.

If you are looking for a purely promotional, not hugely insightful, highlight reel for McGregor, “Conor McGregor: Notorious” will be in theaters for one night only, this Wednesday. If you are already a fan of the man or the sport, there is definitely something here to enjoy. Even if you aren’t, there’s something here to enjoy, Conor McGregor is a huge personality and undoubtedly incredibly talented, but don’t go into the movie expecting to learn facts you didn’t know or to be surprised. “Notorious” is strictly a surface look at Conor McGregor, nothing more.



photo credit: Universal Studios

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