UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor apologized this week for his use of a homophobic slur backstage at a recent UFC event.
During an appearance on RTE One's The Late Late Show, McGregor said he used the word in the heat of the moment while consoling teammate Artem Lobov following Lobov's loss to Andre Fili at UFC Fight Night 118 on Oct. 21.
"I witnessed him lose a ... potential career-ending fight in a manner where the opponent was stalling and running away and I was upset," McGregor said. "I was whispering in his ear and speaking on that and I said what I said. I meant no disrespect to ... [anybody in the] LGBT community."
Soon after the fight card from Gdansk, Poland—which aired exclusively on the UFC's digital streaming service—a video emerged of McGregor and Lobov walking backstage after the fight. McGregor leaned close to his ear and repeatedly used the slur during a conversation he apparently thought wouldn't be overheard.
"I thought you were going to sleep him," McGregor said to Lobov. "All I'm saying, he's a f----t. I never knew he was a f----t." (Warning: Video is NSFW.)
McGregor had attended the event as a fan and during Lobov's fight, he could be seen cageside boisterously cheering on his cohort from SBG Gym in Ireland. At one point, McGregor had to be warned to sit down by referee Mark Goddard.
During his television appearance, McGregor said he wanted to apologize and move past his use of the homophobic slur.
"I just have to say sorry for what I said ... and try and move on from it," McGregor said.
In the past, McGregor had championed Ireland's efforts to legalize gay marriage, both during his public appearances and on social media:
Conor McGregor @TheNotoriousMMA
Myself and my team are urging everyone to please VOTE YES TO EQUALITY! Every human deserves equal rights #WeAreAllOne http://t.co/PbyTXNHzKQ2015-5-19 11:44:37
The backstage incident with Lobov, however, certainly wasn't the first time he has made waves with objectionable language.
As far back as his fight with Dennis Siver in January 2015, the 29-year-old Dublin native has had to defend himself from charges of insensitivity. In the lead-up to that bout, McGregor apologized for referring to Siver, a Russian-born fighter of German descent, as "a Nazi," according to Bleacher Report's Hunter Homistek.
During his protracted feud with Brazilian fighter Jose Aldo over the UFC men's featherweight title, McGregor also boasted he would "turn [Aldo's] favela into a Reebok sweatshop," per Yahoo's Dave Doyle.
In 2017, during the highly publicized media tour before his boxing match against Floyd Mayweather Jr., McGregor used racist language to taunt Mayweather by saying, "Dance for me, boy." At the final public event before their fight, Mayweather dropped a homophobic slur of his own, directed at McGregor.
Mayweather went on to win their bout via 10th round TKO. The event was promoted as one of the biggest sporting events of the year and was hailed as a major success on pay-per-view by its organizers. However, the fight came under fire from critics for the lowbrow nature of much of the lead-up.
McGregor is currently in talks to return to the UFC for his next fight.