I spent a day drinking in Conor McGregor's pub to see if it lives up to the hype - and to drink all day. Watch here:
Just the other week, McGregor's pub The Black Forge Inn was reportedly targeted in a petrol bomb attack.
It didn't perturb The Notorious from partaking in a seemingly decadent 'thirsty Thursday' the following day though. In fact, the charismatic but controversial MMA fighter seems to split his time between the gym and his pub, if Insta is to be believed.
So, keen to see if the atmosphere at the boozer is as lively as it seems, I jetted across the Irish Sea last week to partake in a thirsty Thursday of my own.
What exactly goes on in McGregor's pub? Will he appear? How much can I get away with putting on expenses?
McGregor is never too far away from the headlines. His fighting prowess and keen instinct for self-promotion has seen him amass a huge fanbase and a boatload of cash. But he's also found himself embroiled in many a controversy. More of that later.
Now, he's arguably Ireland's most famous landlord.
The Black Forge Inn is located in Crumlin, the suburb where McGregor was born in 1988 - about a 15-minute taxi ride away from my hotel in the city centre.
The pub - which has been around for more than 30 years - is McGregor's former local (and current local, in fact) and one of two boozers he currently owns. The other is the Marble Arch, which he bought after assaulting a punter, before barring said punter.
I arrived shortly after opening at noon, through the restaurant side of the venue. Table for one please.
There's clearly been plenty of cash spent on renovations. There can also be no doubt about who owns the place; photos of McGregor adorn the walls, videos of him revelling in the venue play on TV screens and bottles of his Proper No. 12 Whiskey glisten in rows behind the bar.
He's everywhere, watching you from every wall. Now I know how his opponents in the Octagon feel, although luckily I'm a lover not a fighter. And a drinker.
But given the swanky feel of the place, I was pleased to find out a pint of his Forged Irish Stout is priced at just €4.70 (£3.93/$5.30), which was at least a couple of euros cheaper than I'd anticipated.
After two pints I asked a barmaid how strong the tipple was, to which she replied: "Two percent."
Suddenly, I felt conned and confused, but thankfully, before ill-advisedly throwing them back like water, I had the sense to double-check with another staff member behind the bar, who assured me it was between 4.3 percent and 4.4 percent.
Choosing just one dish from the highly varied menu was a challenge, but I ultimately plumped for the Open Chicken Sambo with chips. Decent scran done, now it was time to get to know the locals.
A few pints in and feeling courageous enough to make friends, I ventured over to the bar, where I befriended the only other early Thursday afternoon drinkers, Martin and Mike.
The former was a local who had €20 on So Said I at the 3pm at Ludlow, the latter was a salesman from Preston who had left his folder behind after having a skinful at the pub the night before.
He was clearly a believer in the hair of the dog hangover treatment though, and was imploring me to move on from my stouts to 'The Combo', which is apparently a stout and a Proper No. 12 chaser, with a slice of lime.
He told me this was what McGregor had named his preferred drink pairing in his pub, though Mike made the fair point that the famous fighting landlord was missing a trick by referring to it as 'The Combo', rather than 'The Conbo'.
Whatever you want to call it, the day was to be a marathon not a sprint, and I felt it was a tad early to be adding whiskey to the equation.
But then So Said I pulled off a dramatic victory, clinching the dramatic race by a nostril, and suddenly I felt bang up for a celebratory Combo/Conbo.
In fact, I celebrated the triumph far more jubilantly than Martin, which I reckon may have indicated he'd had other less successful flutters over the course of the day and, indeed, life. The bookies always win, Martin.
Regardless, our table became increasingly full, as we graduated from pints to pints and whiskeys, and the bar began to fill out a bit too, with locals knocking off early to get cracking with their own thirsty Thursdays.
It turns out pubs across Ireland were required by law to close at 8pm as part of Covid restrictions, and to be honest this was somewhat of a relief, given that the Combos/Conbos had well and truly derailed my intended pacing for the day.
It looked like the timing of my trip was unfortunate though, as Mike told me McGregor had come in the night before around half an hour before closing, swaggering about for a few laps of his venue before taking up a corner at the back; so it seemed unlikely he'd be in two days on the trot.
But I still had hope. And a whiskey.
Just in case we ever forgot we were in Conor McGregor's pub, the former UFC champion has a belt perched behind the bar, which visitors can have photographs with - provided a member of staff keeps tabs on them. Naturally, I took the photo op and was surprised when the barman who took my pic told me it was the genuine article. The real deal. The actual big belt.
I was surprised partly because it seems a bit risky to let drunkards mess about with the actual belt, and partly because I noticed that it said 'Made in China' on the back.
Regardless, I felt like a champion by this point, my increasingly messy tally chart telling me I had quaffed six pints of Forged Irish Stout, one accidentally ordered Guinness and four Proper No. 12 whiskeys.
A red lump on my head was also telling me that I'd just smashed my head on a lamp, which I hastily twisted back to a straight position, fearful of an untimely McGregor appearance.
With only a couple of hours until close, I asked one of the managers if he'd join me for a quick chat in 'Christy's Snug' in the corner of the bar.
Eddie Murphy - I s**t you not - told me it was unlikely that I'd catch The Notorious on this occasion, but he said the owner does swing by regularly, as his recent Instagram activity attests.
"He's very generous, and he's very good to our local customers as well," he said.
"When he comes in, he could easily buy a random round for the whole pub, or if he sees a family that he knows, he'll just say to us quietly, 'That's on me'.
"I was here one evening and he bought two shots of tequila for a couple, it was the gentleman's birthday. The shots of tequila were €400 a piece."
I was curious to know what it was like to work for the fearsome fighter, and according to Eddie, he's far kinder to his employees than his opponents in the Octagon.
He said: "It's brilliant [working for McGregor]. He's very approachable, he's extremely generous.
"It's really good to see somebody with that kind of money come in and have such time for people. Any child, adult, approaches him, he'll give them a couple of minutes and have a chat with them, the photographs, the autographs. You know, he's never out of reach, which is amazing."
Unfortunately though, he was out of reach for me on this impromptu visit, and so too was my last remaining drinking partner Mike soon enough, who threw in the towel with about half an hour till close, leaving me with nothing but a pile of drinks for company.
It's at this point that things become very hazy, as a DJ span some tunes in the restaurant and I embarked on a last ditch downing mission to clear my table before kick out time.
I can only tell you this because my camera roll is comprised of various videos of me necking pints, so I'd like to thank whoever filmed those for their support. I'd also like to thank the staff who seemingly allowed me to keep fighting this pointless fight way after everyone else had left.
When I made it back to my hotel (don't recall how, but I did) I learnt that the hotel bar was exempt from the 8pm curfew, and while drinking beyond the close of The Black Forge Inn was in no way part of the assignment, I felt it was necessary at the time.
I woke up the following morning more drunk than hungover, which was nice, though I was totally naked except for one sock, which I felt was a bad sign.
Drying up on my flight home, I recalled Eddie telling me that his boss plans to become 'the biggest publican in Ireland' - which may be a troubling prospect for those who dislike the Marmite character.
But while critics may point to a number of comments and incidents when condoning McGregor - a high profile civil rape case against him will be heard next month - it's much harder to knock The Black Forge Inn, from the well-priced pints to the saintly staff who let an idiot pretend he was the UFC champion for 30 glorious seconds.
Just a couple of days after my trip, Ireland did away with the 8pm curfew and McGregor returned to his pub for a big old blow out. Typical.
Next time I get a chance I'm keen to head over for a lively night down the pub - but I might kick off a little later than noon.
And I might need a bigger expenses account.Featured Image Credit: LADbible