UFC champion Conor McGregor is being investigated by police in Ireland after posting a picture of himself holding a gun on social media.
The 27-year-old, who defeated Jose Aldo in 13 seconds in order to become the UFC Featherweight Champion last month, posted the picture to Instagram at around 2am on Thursday morning with a caption reading: “Put the fight game in the bag and step away from the vehicle.”
Speaking to the Irish Independent newspaper, a representative of the Irish national police force, An Garda Síochána (meaning “the Guardian of the Peace”), confirmed that an investigation has been launched into the circumstances in which the photo was taken.
The image appears to show McGregor posing with what ballistics experts have suggested is a replica machine pistol (either a Koch MP5 machine pistol with a silencer attached or a replica Heckler) in the front seat of his BMW i8 car. The fact that only a handful of such vehicles exist in Ireland – they retail at €150,000 – meant that the masked, arms-bearing figure in the front-seat was not difficult for informed observers to identify.
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) December 31, 2015
Access to firearms is tightly controlled in Ireland, particularly following the outbreak of the sectarian violence which destabilized the north of the country in the 1970s and 80s. The Gardaí implement an extremely conservative application of strict licensing legislation which obliges all firearms to be registered individually at a local police station and each applicant to have a good reason for possessing the firearm in the first place.
Legislation has been further tightened since the turn of the millennium as the number of firearms-related deaths in Ireland has increased a rate commensurate with the rise of an illegal drugs trade and gang-culture. McGregor’s birthplace of Crumlin in County Dublin has been particularly badly hit by violent crime in recent years, and this background makes the fighter’s decision to wield a replica firearm in public, picture it, and publish the image online even more difficult to understand.
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) January 7, 2016
After all, the stunt not only stands to damage McGregor’s reputation in his home country, but it might also entail criminal prosecution.
Irish law prohibits the possession and use of realistic imitation firearms in a public place under 2009 legislation introduced by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The reformed firearms bill stipulates that McGregor could be fined for up to €5,000 or sentenced to 12 months imprisonment on a summary conviction or jailed for up to five years in the unlikely event that he is indicted for Thursday’s offence.
The fact that McGregor has previously publicized his liking of imitation firearms (he even received a mock-bazooka on Christmas Day) is hardly likely to aid his defense. T the prospect of a court case in Ireland could hardly come at a worse time for the fighter, who has received what Fox Sports call a “tentative green light” from UFC boss, Dana White, in his quest to become only the second fighter ever to hold two UFC belts in two separate weight-divisions at the same time.
McGregor spoke of his intention to compete at 155 pounds within minutes of stunning Aldo in order to win the UFC Featherweight Championship in Las Vegas a month ago, and although White was initially reluctant to allow the Irishman compete across two weight-divisions while retaining the Featherweight belt, comments he made on the UFC Tonight programme on Wednesday suggest that stance has softened.
— Sky Sports (@SkySports) January 7, 2016
“Conor has said he would like to win the 155-pound belt and fight four times a year and defend both belts,” White said.
“If anybody can do it, Conor McGregor can. This guy has done pretty much everything he said he would do so I’m interested.”
White’s comments have fuelled speculation that McGregor’s next fight will be for the Lightweight title against Rafael dos Anjos despite Frankie Edgar’s eagerness to challenge the Dubliner for his Featherweight belt.
Either way, McGregor would do well to ensure he keeps his imitation guns at home for the foreseeable future in order to make sure that he is available to capitalize on what is sure to be another lucrative pay-per-view event for the UFC.
[Picture by Steve Marcus/Getty Images]