There are very few names that are spoken about more in the sports world than Conor McGregor currently, making him the perfect subject of a tell-all documentary. Directed by Gavin Fitzgerald, the recently released, Notorious has been breaking records back in Ireland and making the headlines itself. We had the chance to catch up with Gavin to learn all about Conor, how the project came together and his hopes and dreams for the future.
Firstly congratulations on the documentary. I really enjoyed it and thought that it gave some great insight into Conor behind the public image we get.
Gavin: Thank you! It’s really nice to finally be able to show it to people and it had a huge record breaking opening in Ireland so it has been a long journey, but well worth it.
Let’s take it right back to the start. In terms of your own career was making films what you always wanted to do? Especially documentaries?
I was always interested in films. That was definitely always there. It wasn’t necessarily all documentaries but it was that genre where you needed less prep and you could just get up and go. Especially with advances in technology and your SLR cameras. People had the capabilities to just go out and do it so it felt like there were less barriers there.
And for those people that don’t know the story, how exactly did you get involved with Conor in the first place?
We first met Conor back in a small dingy establishment back in 2012. It wasn’t about him at the time but he made it about him. There was just something about that man even back then. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t a UFC fighter at the time. He still had that self belief and determination that you can see in the film even way back in the early days. We almost lucked out with the association with Conor and we had no idea what was to come.
So your focus almost changed from your original intentions?
No one knew about the sport at the time so it was really an opportunity to shine a light on that. Little documentaries on teammates etc. But Conor was so captivating that it became an unexpected change to our journey. We learnt about how he started fighting, why he did it and then everything just sky rocketed from there.
With the developments from a small Irish gym to the big time in UFC what were the challenges for you as a documentary maker and the barriers involved in working with such a huge company?
We actually found that our access got better and better every time we went over to Conor and working with Dana. Of course UFC didn’t know us at first but over time we built that up and the results show in the film. Conor wanted us there despite us often having no credentials when we turned up!
And was there any restrictions you had to play by at all? I imagine it’s quite difficult to choose what to focus on and what to cut out.
Conor really loved the fighting aspects. That’s what he wanted to show. We really had to explain to him that this needed to be a wider picture of who he is and access to all areas. So he did get used to people being around and his star grew and grew. With the amount of training and fighting he did we had hours and hours of footage to the point where you’re almost sick of MMA!
So it must have been a tough decision making process as to what you ended up including in the final cut?
Just like any documentary you have to be completely ruthless in the edit room with boards and structure. It’s about telling the story you want to tell. The challenge was that we were making a documentary on a story that was constantly changing. You have to pick and choose your moments and not hold on to scenes too much.
In terms of access to Conor at UFC did you find that more challenging the bigger he got?
We definitely found that the more cameras there were the harder it was to get a more unique angle on the story. Especially with all eyes worldwide wanting to be on Conor as his career got bigger. Luckily Conor wanted us there and we had to be there at very short notice sometimes. That was one of the most difficult and exhausting parts.
And did you notice any change in Conor the more famous he became?
Not really. He was always that guy who believed in himself more than anyone and always set himself challenges and goals. You see in the film where he’s watching his first fight and he’s talking over it and saying all this stuff about himself. That’s who he is. He hasn’t forgotten where he’s come from and he’s still that guy that wants to be the best. He has a real energy about him and still feels like the same guy one on one.
With the documentary covering such a long period of time was it an exhausting process?
Oh absolutely. I think we ended up in Vegas something like eleven times in total, often having to drop things at a few minutes notice. You just never knew when you’d have the chance to get access or when Conor would want us there for something in particular. I could do without seeing Vegas ever again!
We see Dana White a good few times in the film, especially at Conor’s place. Do they have a close working relationship?
Dana loves fighting. The guy you see in interviews and at press conferences – that’s him. He is absolutely passionate about it. For me I got a bit sick of it because there was just too much of it but that’s not a problem for Dana.
And of course as you said it’s a career and story that is still going to this day. Some of the biggest parts like the Mayweather fight you had to include as a footnote really. How do you see Conor’s career and developments in recent times?
There are a few negative headlines flying about at the moment and that can be a bit of a dark space. He needs a fight to focus on as that does wonders for his head. The film showed that he’s at his best when he’s got something to work towards. He sets the bar so high for himself.
As someone who grew up on wrestling and then got into MMA through that, it feels as if Conor has bridged the gap between the two with his promos etc. And obviously with Lesnar and Rousey getting involved in WWE too the two worlds aren’t so apart anymore. Is that something you see in Conor’s future?
Money talks. Maybe after retiring he could go to wrestling. It’s not impossible.
And finally now that this documentary has been released what are you hoping to do in the future? Is this something you’d like to revisit or do you hope to branch out?
Gavin: This was a lot of work and a lot of my life to dedicate to one project so it would be really nice to do something different. I think I need a break from MMA! I’m developing a few ideas on different sports but can’t quite go into detail on those yet. Hopefully in the near future.
Conor McGregor – Notorious is out now on DVD and Blu-ray.