What Indians Can Learn from Comeback King Conor McGregor

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What Indians Can Learn from Comeback King Conor McGregor

Illustration: Cleon Dsouza

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t least once in your life, you will probably think of a witty comeback instantly, that will make everyone in the room laugh out loud, and make you new friends. Most other times though, you’ll probably end up standing there, mouth gaping, wishing you had something caustic and cutting to say to the person who just insulted you. Obviously, the perfect reply will occur to you hours later and texting it to the insulter will clearly not have the same effect — not for the insult, not for your ego.

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The French have the perfect phrase to describe this situation: L’esprit de l’escalier or “staircase wit”. If you are one of those people who finds themselves in the latter situation often, you could take a few tips from the motormouth that is Conor McGregor. All the way in the lead up to yesterday’s big fight with champion boxer Floyd Mayweather, and indeed back in his own UFC career, the Irishman has made a name for being especially crass.

This backfired pretty heavily in some ways over the weekend. All of McGregor’s last few months spent talking shit about Mayweather and his family, culminated right there with him getting slapped around like he was one of Mayweather’s ex-girlfriends. But that was not a big deal, the match ended in a technical knock-out so he wasn’t too humiliated. Meanwhile, the UFC fighter made history by being the most successful 0-1 boxer in the world, considering his payout was more than the GDP of a few countries. But that isn’t the point.

The point is that most of us could’ve used a guy like Conor McGregor around us growing up, considering how naturally shitty most Indians are with our comebacks and trash talk. Conor McGregor’s Irish wit allows for him to instantly be the most popular guy in the room. Meanwhile, in school I once heard a guy respond to, “Your face is a toilet”, with “No, it is actually my face.” As I was saying earlier, thinking of a good comeback at the opportune moment is like finding a wild animal in the bathroom. For us Indians, the animal might as well be a unicorn.

Floyd “Money” Mayweather may be a boxing veteran but he is very far from being a trash-talk legend, often failing in the face of McGregor’s brilliant insults in the the build-up to the fight.

Trash talk, insult comedy, and comebacks have always been virtues appreciated in a young man growing up where I have. When we were in school, the most charismatic guys always got the most laughs, even if their comebacks involved just yelling, “Blah, blah, blah” back at the person. Sometimes all it took  for a successful comeback was repeating the insult that was just hurled at you, but much louder. Like countering, “You smell like my dog’s mouth” with, “No, YOU smell like my dog’s MOUTH!!!”

Now I’m much older, but the comeback game sadly hasn’t improved. It might have been funny earlier, but it no longer makes sense to see two grown men baby-talking over each other at a traffic signal. “Talk to the hand” became a thing for a short while in college, but everyone knows that’s weaker than the canteen tea. Still, it is marginally better than witnessing that highly irritating guy who makes a grand ceremony of his comebacks. He will stall exaggeratedly, so everyone’s attention is turned to him, only to mumble something like, “Your mom!”, the lamest, most ineffective comeback in the history of comebacks. You can still find this type doing the 8 pm set every time there’s an open mic. McGregor will make this guy slit his wrists.

That’s because McGregor is an absolute living legend of trash talk, the kind who can get away with saying: “A lot of media are saying I’m racist against black people. That’s absolutely f… ridiculous. Do they not know I’m half-black? Yeeeeeah. I’m half-black from the belly button down.”

Can you really argue with that?

But McGregor’s great talent might have also been his greatest flaw. Like many other trash-talk legends before him, he overestimated his own talent.

Image Credit/ David Becker, Stringer

Floyd “Money” Mayweather may be a boxing veteran but he is very far from being a trash-talk legend, often failing in the face of McGregor’s brilliant insults in the the build-up to the fight. McGregor danced in his face, stole a belt in front of him, called him an aged man, and made an entire crowd chant “Fuck Mayweather”. All the boxer could come back with was lines like: “I’m the IRS and I’m gonna tax your ass” and “God don’t make mistakes and God only made one thing perfect. And that’s my boxing record.” Clearly, one is better than the other.

But McGregor’s great talent might have also been his greatest flaw. Like many other trash-talk legends before him, he overestimated his own talent. He said he would knock Mayweather out in six rounds, he didn’t even come close. He called Mayweather an old man, but looked like an octogenarian himself when he was throwing punches. McGregor even tried to trash talk Mayweather during the fight, which I’m sure didn’t help much. The McGregors of the world may win a few hearts, but the Mayweathers of the world will always knock them out.

That still doesn’t solve our original problem. Us Indians, who think “Teri ma ki,” is a good comeback to pretty much anything. In that respect, we are neither McGregors nor Mayweathers.

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