On Saturday night, Conor McGregor lost to Floyd Mayweather but shocked the world by going 10 rounds with “The Best Ever” before the referee ended the fight.
If all you saw was McGregor’s post-fight press conference to the mainstream media you would have seen someone who made no excuses, kept up his confident exterior and tried too hard to flaunt the money he made. He also promoted his new brand of whisky. Backstage, McGregor made time for Ariel Helwani, a mixed martial arts reporter that he’s remained loyal to, and we could see the "real" Conor. I love this Conor -- honest, direct, critical.
Here are three powerful lessons about how McGregor acted in the face of defeat.
1. Don’t be afraid to own your weaknesses.
In an interview later that night, McGregor says point blank that the fight turned when fatigue set in and that he doesn’t know why that is. How many of us are so open about weaknesses we recognize and are actively working on?
“Fatigue got me. I don’t know what it is. It’s certainly not from working hard enough. I ******* work hard. I work hard Ariel. I worked hard. I work my *** off. I think it’s just a mental thing I need to figure out.”
As a venture-backed CEO at Chorus.ai, I lean on my board members and mentors for advice. I’m always forthcoming about the things I need to work on: Celebrating wins more often, being willing to get imperfect things out the door, and a lot more.
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2. Make no excuses. Give your competitors credit where due. Continue to learn.
McGregor opens the post-fight press conference complementing the things Mayweather did well. He spent very little time focused on what he did well despite being one of the top martial artists in the world.
“I didn’t anticipate that. Three game changes during the fight. That’s what a true champion [Mayweather] does...much respect...I was wasting valuable energy...I became flustered a bit...He’s very composed. He picks his shots very well.”
“What’s next for me is...continue to study. Continue to learn. I’m a student of martial arts and fighting as a whole. I’ve studied everyone in the game, including Floyd and it was an honor to share the ring with him.”
At Chorus.ai, I started by dismissing the competition because I knew our technology and product couldn’t be beat. But competition is necessary and I’ve changed my tune. It makes us all work harder for our customers and there’s a lot we can learn from the things they do well. I regularly talk to our competitors and even feel a certain bond as we’re all creating this new category of software together. In fact, research we published for sales team showed the having competitors in deals increased win rates by a full 10 percent versus being in a deal alone.
3. Don’t be afraid to take risks to get to where you want to go.
McGregor publicly put himself out there on the biggest stage possible, in a sport where he has no professional experience. Many of us have opportunities to take a chance -- lead an important meeting, present at a big conference. How many of us act on that opportunity?
By taking this risk, McGregor made over $100M, introduced himself, his skills and his character in defeat to millions of boxing fans, and co-promoted what is expected to be the highest grossing fight in history. Five years ago he was collecting welfare checks. I may not like McGregor’s showman personality, but I have a tremendous respect for how he approaches his life and career.