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The Power of Belief: The Motivated and The Possessed

A Fanatic


A quarter of the way into The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce has begun experimenting with some new gadgets and Alfred warns against throwing himself back onto the battlefield as Gotham’s dark knight. It’s been eight years since he took down the Joker, eight years of “peacetime;” eight years since he’d accomplished what he’d set out to, and now a new threat has emerged. Alfred watches Bruce brace his arthritic knee before kicking the wall, warily sensing Bruce’s gathering momentum towards the cape and cowl. Alfred tells him, “if you’re seriously considering going back out there, you should hear the rumors surrounding Bane….there is a prison in a more ancient part of the world. A pit. Where men are thrown to suffer, and die…but sometimes a man rises from the darkness. Sometimes the pit sends something back.” Bruce retorts that the city needs him, to which Alfred tells him “you can strap up your leg and put your mask on, but that doesn’t make you what you were.”


Later, Bruce returns to the cave after his first night back out as Batman, and Alfred points to a video of Bane wreaking havoc on a team of security guards and warns Bruce a second time, asking “what happens when you come up against him?” Bruce tells him, “I’ll fight harder. I always have,” and Alfred responds, “when you have something to fight for. What are you fighting for, now? Not your life….take a good look – his speed, his ferocity, his training. I see the power of belief. Of a fanatic.”



***


“You remind me of someone... a man I met in a half-remembered dream. A man possessed of some radical notions.”


***


I remember a fanatic: A skinny, 25 year-old Irishman with decidedly radical visions of what a career in mixed martial arts could look like. Hair in a man-bun, flexing and screaming to a packed crowd. I saw him in interviews, raving about fluidity and angles, and the infinite importance of non-attachment in the mind, freedom of movement in the body. I remember hearing Joe Rogan fanaticizing over how relaxed he was inside the Octagon, his indefatigable confidence and poise, his unpredictability.

Has an athlete ever embodied the power of belief more undeniably than early Conor McGregor, circa 2014-16? On stage at the weigh ins, screaming, flexing, nothing held back. A man liberated by his own all-consuming self-belief, a wrecking ball of momentum, wholly possessed by an unflinching belief in what must come to pass. Did the sound of Sinead O’Connor’s voice ringing out over a green-clad, sold out arena not rival “from North Carolina, at guard, 6’6’” belting over the Alan Parson’s Project at the United Center in it's chill-inducing, spine tingling power? Not a moment passed during which Conor failed to embody that generationally definitive sense of inevitable, life-defining purpose. His vision, his goal, was simply going to happen, full stop. Pity the fool that got in the way.


Last week, at the press conferences, and in the octagon, I saw the power of belief. I saw it in Dustin Poirier.


The Mask and The Man


Two movies prior, on the plane returning to Gotham from his sojourn abroad, Bruce begins articulating his vision to Alfred. “I’m going to show the people of Gotham (things don’t have to be the way they are). People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy, and I can't do that as Bruce Wayne. As a man, I'm flesh and blood. I can be ignored. I can be destroyed. But as a symbol, as a symbol I can be incorruptible. I can be everlasting.”


***


I’ve heard the Marvin Hagler quote referenced numerous times over the past week, but I don’t think “it’s tough to get out of bed at 5 AM to do roadwork when you’ve been sleeping on satin sheets” quite captures uniqueness of Conor’s predicament. None of us - fighters or not - are ever short potential sources of motivation, plenty of hardships – financial and otherwise – bearing down on us, and yet not all of us find ourselves equally moved to action, moved to work, moved to prepare. We can stir ourselves to action, we remind ourselves of our reasons “why,” but we’re not born equal in our capacity to be moved, to be incited, and not all periods of our life are equal, either, in their ripeness for fruition, their readiness for animation. Wherever it may have come from, whatever may have incited it, early Conor's energy was one of a man captivated by something far more far-reaching than "motivation."


Conor’s siege on the world of mixed martial arts was always, blatantly and aggressively, a symbolic one. He likened himself to warriors of old, stating the McGregors fought and died for this country. “It’s in our blood! If you took me years back I’d probably be sitting on a horse with a pickaxe somewhere in the Scottish highlands.” The playful embracement of myth, and symbolism; a liberator, a symbol of hope for a people trodden upon, a symbol of hope for anyone absent the courage necessary to face their life more fully, more forthrightly. A symbol of hope for anyone in need of a dramatic example, himself included, perhaps not the least of which.


Bruce Wayne’s symbolic imposition on Gotham was not just necessary for the sake of striking fear into his enemies, or to “protect the people he cared about,” as he described, it was for his own empowerment. He needed a persona to leverage, a vessel to channel his intentions, a mask to free himself. This facet as necessary to carrying out the mission as anything. Bruce needed Batman as much as he needed to bring justice to Gotham; he needed the mask – to possess and to be possessed by. Conor was no different. He needed an archetype to leverage – to strike fear into the hearts of his enemies, as well as to liberate himself from his own limitations, those he was most afraid of – his own self-consciousness and self-doubt. He needed a mask to grant himself the kind of eternal, symbolic power that the cookie cutter fighters around him lacked the imagination for - the indestructability of the monster of chaos, the elusiveness of the shapeshifter, the all-embracing freedom of the wise philosopher. He found the archetypal inflation he needed through the persona we all came to know, the one he etched so enthusiastically into our psyches – the way Batman did for the city of Gotham.


I can’t imagine what an unbelievable thrill Conor’s first years in the UFC must have been, but he looked like he was having the time of his life, at a level of intensity the likes of which very few of us ever experience and with - I'd imagine - an accompanying addictive high few would be immune to. Rachel Dawes, in her final letter to Bruce, puts it this way: “I’m sure the day won’t come when you no longer need Batman.” Who could blame him?

The Conor we saw leading up to, during, and after UFC 257 strikes me as an incredibly well adjusted, affable guy. Perhaps too much so. No longer a man possessed, even if still willful and motivated. Gracious in his promotion of the fight, and authentically appreciative in his acknowledgment of Dustin’s success since their first meeting, both inside the ring and out – congratulating Dustin on his charity work and on what an admirable man and father he’s become. It was actually Dustin who had to clarify, amidst all the mutual compliments, that they weren’t “up there giving each other back rubs.” After the fight I wondered whether Rachel Dawes' earlier sentiment was actually the most accurate, that Bruce's real mask was the one he wore in "real life," that his truest self was the iconic symbol through which the world came to know him; the manic, possessed Conor of old may have been, in truth, the more authentic Conor. Maybe some men's most essential self is better suited for certain chapters of their lives than others.


All the while, amidst the unrelenting mutual appreciation between the men, and in the way only Conor can, he gently and persistently articulated the sense of confidence and readiness he felt and that he would, indeed, “hurt Dustin badly” and “secure another masterpiece,” though he did it entirely sans mania, sans the next-level chaotic fury that was so integral to both the mental warfare he waged on his opponents in years past as well as – I argue – his own creative capacities inside the Octagon. This Conor clearly wanted a win, and a spectacular one at that, but – also clearly – not as necessarily as the young, possessed vessel on display in his early years. This Conor found himself sufficiently relaxed, even, to be moved to tears by one reporter’s quoting of McGregor’s own words from 2013:


I've lost my mind to this game like Vincent Van Gogh. Vincent dedicated his life to his art and he lost his mind in the process. That's happened to me but f**k it. When that gold belt is wrapped around my waist and my mother has a big mansion, my girlfriend has a car for every day of the week and my kids' kids get everything they ever wanted. Then it will pay. Then I will be happy. I lost my mind."


Touching as the moment may have been, I couldn't decide if felt more like a build up or more like a tension-diffusing coronation.


Equally noteworthy was his post-fight graciousness, to both Dustin and Dustin’s wife Julie, through what was a truly devastating defeat. Most interesting were his words at the post-fight press conference: “I’m not that upset about it, which is another weird one for me.”


At the pre-fight presser, when asked about his return to the octagon and what motivates him, he replied “I feel like I’m only starting man. Everyone wants to say ‘hey Conor you’ve done it all - you’re so rich, you’re richer than Dana over here – what are you doing here?’ And I’m like, ‘am I not allowed here? I wanna be here, I wanna perform for the fans. I’m a young man…all the money, all the belts, that comes and that goes. You know what lives on? Highlights…I want my highlight reel to be like a movie. Please don’t be trying to get rid of my guys! I love it here. I helped build this thing.”

If we rewind, back to his earlier days, his initial siege nearly complete: After beating Aldo, before Mayweather, and before the second belt, Joe Rogan already had it right: “you’re the champion of the world – you did it all sir!” What other mountains were there for McGregor to climb? He’d climbed them, and climbed them in such spectacular fashion, where could he possibly go from there? After racking up the biggest payday in combat sports history before going on to secure a title in a second weight class and “leaving the contest without a mark on me,” where does one go from the wealthy, charismatic, and undefeated top? His own coach, Jon Kavanaugh, jokes that supreme success can be a gift and a curse for a fighter; how do you motivate a champion?


Satin sheets or no satin sheets, what else was there to show people? One would be hard pressed to overstate what a magic act his first three years in the UFC actually were. It’s easy, now, to take for granted the phenomenon of Conor’s initial rise, but as it was happening? Has there ever been a more dramatic example in sports of the power of persona, the power of will, the power of belief than McGregor’s initial surge to glory? Did young Michael Jordan capture people’s archetypal imaginations the way Conor did? Their capacity for hope? Mixed martial arts was certainly more of a niche interest in 2014 than professional basketball was in the 1984, but if we can take the global ambassadorship and the growth in popularity of each sport as reliable indicators of the personal power of the sport’s greatest stars, how do the two compare?


After a certain level of success is it even possible to retain or, if lost, regain any – or all – of the of utility of the animating impulse that carried them to the promised land? I can’t imagine Conor ever lacking the motivation to get out of bed and work on his skills and I don’t imagine that a day will come when finding the motivation to put effort into any area of his life will ever pose a challenge for Conor, but finding motivation is an entirely different phenomenon than finding one’s self possessed. Willing one’s self to work is not the same as finding one’s self willed forward, animated and captivated by something bigger, some all-consuming purpose; being motivated is not the same as being moved and possessed by the power of belief.


***


During the middle film of Nolan’s trilogy, Batman has inspired copycats and has to bat his imitators out of the way to get his marks. Children don costumes the way one would a football jersey and grown men have taken to wearing bat-masks and confronting criminals, desperate to live out their own fantasy of embodied heroism. I was as susceptible as anyone, enamored with my own caped crusading champion, though he donned a Christmas-colored flag rather than the black shroud. I rewatched Conor McGregor: Notorious more times than I care to admit - far past the point of it being a cute obsession, gliding and pivoting around my bedroom, possessed, flicking out my jab, working the angles, inspired to match the relaxed precision of Mystic Mac’s combinations, bouncing around in my own sparring bouts at the gym, mimicking his poise, his playfulness.


Conor was as striking an example of embodied purpose as one could hope to find, only the likes of which can inspire such mimicry. In his early years, that embodied purpose began to look more like The Joker than Batman – an enlightened slice of self-interested chaos right through the heart of the established norms and expectations of mixed martial arts; “you have nothing – nothing to threaten me with! Nothing to do with all your strength!” Conor’s power in the octagon wasn’t through his physical strength, or physical power, so much as it was through his imagination, his capacity to play his own game, by his rules. His power was in his very legitimate, comparative criticisms of other fighters, “they don’t move like I move, they don’t think like I think, and they don’t talk like I talk.” “I’m like water in there! These other guys – they’re stuck in the mud – they’re movement is basic! They get stuck in that flat-footed style against a guy like me, that’s in and out and light on his feet and the angles are different - it’s the old age versus the new age! I wanted to come over here and show America the new era of the fighting Irish!” In years past, his imitations of the robotic and predictable stance and movement of Mendes, Aldo - or even Poirier circa 2014 - were right on the money. He’d pick them off at angles they’d never seen before. He credited his movement and creativity to his devotion to the doctrine of non-attachment, articulating the belief that when truly unattached one can become almost superhuman in their ability to respond effectively to the challenges that present themselves.


Last Saturday, the minute Herb Dean permitted Conor to engage Poirier, McGregor’s first steps forward reminded me of the men he’d mocked in years past, the men he’d danced circles around. He marched forward, hands high, like the “stuffed boxer with an overhand” he’d described Mendes as. He moved in on Poirier, hurried and eager to show off his new power and affirm “Mystic Mac’s” omniscience, eager to secure the next resume builder. Even the word secure, which I’ve heard him use a lot recently, is perhaps indicative of a shift in Conor. Earlier Conor had no interest in “securing” anything, or in security of any kind. The whole of his endeavor was about ambiguity, open-ended play, fluidity, adaptability, flow. Nothing was secure, solid, or certain, save for his infinitely-unfolding fluid, creativity inside the Octagon. He was more concerned with the beauty of the dance than he was the results of it; so of course, the results were sure to follow.


This was not the Conor of old, the Conor who philosophized that “power is an illusion,” about “guiding opponents onto strikes,” about sensing his opponent’s attachment to a certain outcome and him using it against them. On Saturday, I saw attachment, but I saw it in Conor. I didn’t see the Conor prone to adamancy on the importance of remaining unattached, to being receptive. I saw Conor trying to impose his will on Dustin, “forcing the shots” as he himself described. I suspect some attachment to his training, some attachment – some desperation to showcase the new power he believed his hands possessed, too ready to show off his new strength, to show off the reinvented Conor. If “ring rust” is real, in Conor’s case it’s realness was in his diminished ability to “let go,” and the vulnerability of a newly-developed stance and style not fully-enough informed by the bare-bones realities of the cage – a style not schooled in the ways of non-attachment, in the hard knock lessons of what happens when not truly receptive and responsive to what’s in front of them.


I’m not suggesting that Conor should revert to his old form. The old Conor is dead, let there be no question. He’s not interested in being the wild man he was before the belts and before the Mayweather payday. He likes his new mature self, as well he should. He the stability of his life, I think, and he likes his new frame and the new power (that I suspect is very real – even if his eagerness kept it from flowing freely last Saturday), a result – no doubt – of his new strength and conditioning focus. He shouldn’t abandon any of the new, or attempt to regress to the old, but he is – already, no doubt – incurring a bit of a learning curve as he learns to integrate it all into the fighter that he is - still - to become.


Lots of analysts have been focused on the technical aspects of the fight, discussing the difference in his stance and movement, his being lower, the absence of his famous front kick, and a number of other technical changes in his fighting. I submit that while all of that might have some degree of nominal merit, the real difference is a spiritual one. Attachment. Purpose. Belief. If he’s unattached in his mind, his stance and movement will follow. If he’s clear on what he’s doing in there, the attachment – which only surfaces as a compensation for deeply embodied belief – will surrender, and the rest will fall into place. When he finds that thing, that animator, he’ll embody the belief and act it out. We’ve seen it before - that unmatched ability of Conor’s to bring his visions to fruition, and I’ll never believe for a moment that there was anything fluke-like about it. Some people are just wired differently, capable of tuning themselves to frequencies others can’t seem to find.


In the ring and on the microphone, in years past, Conor was Conor because of the openness – on his feet or on the tip of his tongue, completely improvisational. I didn’t see that in the press conferences leading up to Saturday, and I didn’t see it in his stance, movement, or striking in the ring, but I saw it in Poirier. I saw the freedom, the fun, the gamesmanship. I saw, in Poirier, a man ready to take Conor’s best shots and smile in the face of them, ready to exchange, relishing the thrill of the Octagon, a man possessed by deep appreciation for the beauty of clean boxing, the clack a crisp calk kick.

People have spoken recently of wanting “the old Conor back.” I think I know what they mean, even if they question their articulation of what is missed. We don’t miss the trash talking wild man so much as we miss the fun, the trickster; we miss the playful, inventive fluidity – both athletic and verbal. And we miss the edge. We miss the fun, nothing to lose, having-the-time-of-his-life Conor. We miss Conor’s contact, in touch with the people, embodying their fantasies and reciprocating their devotion, possessed by an in-the-bones understanding of that most deeply yearned for archetypal fantasy he represents.


Will we ever get that Conor back? Or are we attached to a vision that has run it’s course?


Is Conor? What if Rachel Dawes was right?


***


The leadup to the Khabib fight wasn’t fun. His energy looked strained, inside the octagon and out. He looked weathered. Maybe he’d been drinking. He looked tight, physically bound up, without the freedom through his hips and shoulders we saw prior to his hiatus. The fight wasn’t much fun. He didn’t land anything significant, and he looked – dare I say – bored. In the ring. Pressed against the fence, the look on his face looked to me, like one of boredom, as if there were ten things he’d rather be doing. He himself has described his training as having been inconsistent, derailed by ego. Not the Conor the world had come to love. Alfred made the exact same case to Bruce: don’t go out there to prove something to yourself, or because you want to gratify something that hasn’t been gratified in too long. Don’t go out there for the sake of feeling alive. Don’t go out there because you’re attached to what was. But Bruce does it anyway, and finds himself locked in a cage with something the pit had sent back: a man possessed by a deeper need, deeper purpose. Bruce strained and yelled, and struck as powerfully as he could, but the power of belief was no longer his.


If I remember correctly, the outcome of the Khabib fight was tough to stomach, but not in the same way as the Poirier fight. The lead up to Poirier and 257 felt different to me. The king had returned, new and improved, unshakeable. When that final right hand of Dustin’s sat Conor down it unsettled something in me. A hero had fallen; a symbol had been shattered, and one precious to me. It brought mind the fear on Selina Kyle’s face as Bane carred a broken Batman off the sewer drain.


I think the Khabib fight landed Conor in a similar place to where Bruce finds himself post-Bane: in the pit. If you’ll pardon the mix-parsed parallels, perhaps Poirier was his first attempt to scale the wall back. Perhaps Poirier was his first attempt to make that leap back to the greatness he once embodied, back to top-of-the-mountain relevance.


Fear Will Find You


After his second failed attempt to escape the pit, Bruce wakes violently from a dream, his father’s eternal question lingering in his ears: “Bruce, why do we fall?” His pit-bound caretaker, noticing – and well aware of the totality of Bruce’s predicament – warns him, “you do not fear death. You think this makes you strong. It makes you weak…how can you move faster than possible, fight longer than possible, without the most powerful impulse of the spirit? The fear of death.” Bruce replies, “I do fear death. I fear dying, here, while my city burns.” The caretaker replies in turn, offering Bruce his final, most vital instruction: “then make the climb…as the child (who escaped) did…without the rope….that fear will find you again.”


Unattached.

Barack Obama’s campaign manager said of Barack’s campaign “when we’re walking a tightrope without a net…that’s when we were at our best.” Veritable fighter himself, Barack (whatever your politics), and certainly a man possessed for a time, though in a vastly different arena. His campaign manager was certainly on to something. Aren’t we all a little sharper without the net? Doesn’t something greater seem to take hold of us? Something more possessing?


However hard he’s willing to work, however much effort he’s willing to put in in preparation for his next bout, whether Conor can find the spark remains to be seen.


I don’t know what Conor’s “without the rope” might look like, but I believe two things: one, he shouldn’t return to competition until he’s found it – he’ll continue failing the jump, like Bruce, and in the consequential context of mixed martial arts, the stakes are too high to incur such a risk; brain trauma is a tragically real thing and for those rare individuals so hell bent on confronting their own fears in the Octagon, there’s plenty more to lose than pride. Secondly – if, like Bruce, that spark finds him - we’ll know it when we see it – in his stance, in his attitude, in his edge. Though, to reiterate: finding one’s edge can be a tricky business – it’s not something you can force; if it were we’d all be the edgy lions we idolize.


Conor doesn’t have a city burning without his help. Conor has a beautiful family, a 310 foot yacht, Rolls Royce limousines, and an estate worthy of intergalactic royalty; a life that would welcome him with open arms if he were ready for such a surrender. Conor also has Alfred-like figures abound, people who want nothing but the best for him, who would love nothing more than to see him living the peaceful life.


Daniel Cormier, on Ariel Helwani’s show, said of McGregor’s recent demeanor and how seemingly well-adjusted he appears – compared to earlier years, “that he’s showing a maturity about him that he may not have had before, and that’s great…but some guys need that edge.” Cormier referred to Jon Jones’ comments about having beaten Cormier, himself, “after a weekend of cocaine,” and how, no matter how harshly we might judge such sentiment, some fighters need that aspect of chaos, that edge, that this might be what gives them the requisite swagger and edge to be who they need to be inside the octagon; “sometimes the bad guys wins in mixed martial arts.”


Into the Sunset


Conor isn’t Batman, and we can’t write him the peaceful send off a hero deserves, however much we might like to.


I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him but if he’s to reject the rope, he must first find his own city that needs saving, which I think will be hard for Conor – and for all the best reasons. Conor, for all of his self-aggrandizing, self-promotional talent, strikes me as one of the least ego-centric people in professional athletics. He was never in the game for himself, and properly motivating someone who’s already done about as much as they can do for the people around them is going to be challenging. I don’t doubt Kavanaugh’s insistence that Conor worked his butt off in this most recent training camp. I don’t doubt that it was one of his most focused, intentional preparations of his career. However, I suspect that the focus and effort may have been products of willpower more than improvisational, explorational spirit that seemed to define his training in earlier years, possessed by curiosity into the craft and philosophy of fighting. No matter how impressive his physique in the Instagram posts leading up to Abu Dhabi, when the proof’s in the pudding, there’s no getting around it, and we saw the proof in Abu Dhabi: something was missing. Some spark was missing, some animating impulse, some degree of competitive curiosity in Conor. I suspect the work he put in, in training camp, had a similarly forced quality that his energy in the Octagon did.


One will be hard pressed to motivate McGregor dangling any even-remotely egocentric carrots in front of him. It’s gonna take a grander ideal, a heavier burden, and a more imaginative vision to serve, to bring back that part of Conor we miss, if he is – indeed - as intent on a return as he he’s asserted. With that thought in mind, however, the concrete reality that should underline this entire discussion is the reality of mixed martial arts: it is a vicious, brutal game, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a real thing. Those four-ounce gloves are no joke, and I can’t think of anything more tragic than the vision of a future Conor, having been popped a couple too many times – charismatic, articulate charm partially or completely disabled. The aforementioned Coach Kavanaugh also warns all of his fighters to keep in mind that “it’s called prize fighting for a reason. You are taking damage, and getting paid for it.” He has stated that if he senses that a fighter has lost sight of this principal, if this reality is ever unclear to them, that it’s time to pack it in.


I pray that a man whose legacy was built on the applicability of non-attachment doesn’t let his own attachment to his former glory pull him back into an entirely-avoidable harm’s way. In the right frame of mind, properly inspired to compete, I do think McGregor could retrieve his title, and perhaps even surpass his former glory with added tools in his belt. At his best, I don’t think anyone in the most competitive division in the UFC bests him; I think they’d all find him as hard to hit as Alvarez did, and equally hard to evade. But missing that spark - I fear for him, and don’t want to see Conor on the receiving end of an ill-intentioned, flush right hand from Justin Gaethje, or another finishing blow from “that dog” Dustin Poirier (Brendan Schaub’s entirely complimentary description).


If Conor is going to step into that octagon again, I would hate to think he’s doing it without having discovered that deeper - though potentially hard to find - animating principal, one that I believe will make him a less vulnerable fighter, and a more electrifying one; one that might, indeed, reinvigorate the unattached fluidity of the Conor of old, invisibly protected by his wide-reaching “why,” one that revives the playfulness, the wholly-felt understanding of the impact of his presence, his embodiment as archetypal model for how to approach fighting, for how to confront life with style, grace, courage, and confidence. I don’t mean to suggest that such qualities were entirely absent from the leadup to 257, only that there was a certain hard-to-put-a-finger-on spark missing.


I trust that Conor’s people recognize what I believe I recognize in him, at this stage in his evolution. I trust that they will do their best to guide him intelligently. I know they would never put him in harm’s way for another payday, though I do wonder whether they’ll be able to tell him “no” if he pushes for another climb before he’s found what he needs in the pit. I wonder whether they (or anyone) can recognize the difference between a Conor attached, and a Conor floating on the wings of purpose, in the throes of his own creativity and fluidity. I wonder if Conor can tell such a difference. I wonder how much anyone can tell before the octagon doors actually close behind and the bell rings.


Whatever Conor’s “without the rope” might look like, I hope he finds it – and he’d better, because I’m not sure he’ll find the peace he’s looking for without another go at the lightweight throne, and to risk an iota of cognitive capacity for stubbornness would be too much to stomach. My only hope is that he and his team make sure that if he’s to make such a challenge, it’s not without having done the work necessary to make sure he, himself, has truly, undeniably, made himself into something that the pit sent back.


If Conor can find what he needs, I trust that we’ll know it when we see it. We’ll see the bounce, the fun, and the pop from that left hand, and if we do, I predict that we’ll see his hand raised in victory once again, and that belt strapped around his waist. I believe the Dark Knight of mixed martial arts will find the happy ending he’s looking for if – and only if - he can find his “without the rope.” I’m not convinced, however, that such a spark will make itself available to a man, and a movement, that might no longer need it.


Alfred had a dream for Bruce: that he would see him, at a café, at peace, with someone he loved. He stressed to Bruce the impact he could still have on his city, through “your resources, your knowledge,” but that – even more importantly, “they don’t need your body, or your life. That time is past.” Conor’s done about as much for an industry, a country, and for his own family as one could hope to do, and come what may, he will always be The Notorious one. If he’s anything like Bruce however, I hope he finds what he needs to get out of the pit successfully; he’s not the only one would suffer from too many failed leaps.


Wishing Conor the best, whatever way his winds blow.