On Monday, Conor McGregor, Ultimate Fighting Championship’s most famous fighter and one of the highest-paid athletes in the world, announced his retirement from mixed martial arts at the age of 30 — “Proper Pina Coladas on me fellas,” he wrote in his announcement on Twitter. By Tuesday morning, the news of his retirement had been eclipsed by a New York Times report stating that McGregor is under investigation in his home country of Ireland after a woman accused him of sexual assault in December 2018.
According to the Times, who spoke with four people involved in the investigation, the woman who made the allegation said that McGregor assaulted her at the Beacon Hotel in a business park outside of Dublin, around 25 minutes from Crumlin, the neighborhood where McGregor grew up. The police have reportedly found evidence in the penthouse room McGregor stayed in, and have also obtained closed-circuit camera footage from the hotel.
Irish newspapers have been reporting on the story since it broke late last year, though Tuesday’s report is the first to connect McGregor’s name to the allegation. According to the New York Times, “laws in Ireland restrict the news media from identifying individuals charged with rape unless they are convicted, which has not happened in this case.” In Irish newsrooms, employees have reportedly been banned from mentioning McGregor’s name in connection with the case.
Arrest protocol is also quite different in Ireland, where a criminal charge does not necessarily follow an arrest. Although McGregor was arrested in January, Irish media have referred to him in reports as a “famous sportsman,” a bit of an understatement for perhaps the most infamous, and certainly the most well-paid, Irish athlete in history: McGregor made an estimated $99 million last year, and in August 2017, he made around $85 million in one night when he fought Floyd Mayweather Jr., a boxer who has repeatedly faced domestic-battery charges.
Although the Times report is fairly sparse in detail about the night of the alleged assault, connecting the American news item to Irish reporting from December 2018 provides a clearer picture. Irish newspapers have reported that a young woman told police she was raped by a “sports personality” on December 9, or the following morning, at the Beacon Hotel. After the alleged rape, the victim was taken to a nearby sexual-assault-treatment unit, where forensic samples were taken. According to the Irish Times, “It is understood she presented in a highly traumatised state with extensive bruising.”
To casual observers outside the world of MMA, McGregor is the sport’s most infamous athlete, swaggering around with his gorilla chest piece on display, trash-talking opponents with at-least-borderline racist insults, and racking up minor charges for violent encounters in the United States. Despite attempts to expand to a female audience — promoting high-profile athletes like Ronda Rousey and casting an all-female season of the UFC reality show Ultimate Fighter — mixed martial arts leagues like the UFC have a serious domestic-assault problem. According to the Guardian, MMA fighters are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for domestic violence than players in the NFL. UFC president Dana White said in 2014 that “you don’t bounce back from putting your hands on a woman,” a bromide he has since violated by allowing a convicted domestic abuser on the same fight card as a female fighter who was allegedly attacked by her husband, breaking her orbital bone. Though a spokesman for McGregor claims that his decision to retire was unrelated to his alleged investigation, White’s “don’t bounce back” line could ring true for the sport’s most notorious athlete.