Conor McGregor: The Most Buzz a Celebrity Has Ever Brought to the Cowboys’ Sideline
When you’re America’s Team, you draw a big fan base, including celebrities. And over the years the Cowboys have welcomed some of the world’s most famous athletes, entertainers, and politicians to our sideline for pregame warmups/ceremonies. But in my 20 years as sideline reporter, I’ve never seen a bigger reaction from Cowboys’ players and sideline personnel that I witnessed prior to Sunday’s Jaguars-Cowboys game when MMA fighter and UFC champion Conor McGregor strode onto the field at AT&T Stadium.
Hey, it’s cool when Jay Z shows up on the sideline. It’s awesome when King James (LeBron James) comes onto the field to support his favorite team. Heck, we’ve also had King George on the sideline (as in George Strait).
Over the years, celebrities visiting the Cowboys sideline have run the gamut from Eminem, to Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, to U.S. presidents (LBJ, George Bush 41 & 43), to the president of Mexico (Vicente Fox), to Saudi princes (Prince Bandar)…heck, even Elizabeth Taylor!
For God’s sake, Moses himself has been on the Cowboys sideline (Charlton Heston in 1994)! Now that was an interesting pairing on a sideline photo: Moses and Nate Newton!
But no visitor created the same stir as Conor McGregor in terms of energy as well as people on the sideline swarming him for photos/selfies.
The closest buzz I can remember is Nelson Mandela who visited the Cowboys’ locker room following a game at Texas Stadium in the 1999. Mandela had watched the Redskins-Cowboys game from Jerry Jones’ Owners Suite, then Jerry brought him into the locker room for postgame. But that was a different age and Mandela drew a different level of respect. It was not the digital age of selfies and celebrity culture.
As for Sunday and McGregor’s visit, Cowboys players were just about to conclude warmups and were completely surprised to see McGregor. Everything just stopped for a moment as they realized McGregor was on the sideline. After all, the previous weekend, many of the players spent their night at the team hotel in Houston watching Khabib vs McGregor’s UFC 229 fight in Las Vegas.
There are many MMA/UFC fans in the Cowboys’ locker room. How do we know? The reaction on the sideline before the game. And the way that players like Dak, Zeke, and Jeff Heath mimicked McGregor’s ring strut after making big plays against the Jaguars. The Cowboys players were paying tribute to McGregor.
NFL Photos via AP
“Jeff (Heath), who’s a huge fight fan, probably the biggest fight fan we have, came into the locker room (after warmups) and said, ‘If I get a pick today, I’m going to do the Conor McGregor strut,” noted team captain Zack Martin. “When he got (the interception), we all ran onto the field and everyone started doing it. It was pretty sweet.”
Maybe it’s because McGregor briefly visited with the Cowboys defensive backs in a mini-huddle on the field during pregame warmups.
Before the game, Cowboys Executive VP and Chief Brand Officer Charlotte Jones Anderson told me that McGregor had called two weeks earlier and asked about coming to the game. According to Anderson, McGregor was due in the Dallas area for a promotional event later in the week and wanted to come early so that he could attend a Cowboys’ game. Obviously he got the VIP treatment including a tour of AT&T Stadium and a chance to watch the game in the owner’s suite.
On the field during pregame, McGregor threw some passes but didn’t show the form of an NFL quarterback. That’s okay, he was having fun. And so were the camera guys who were catching every second. McGregor later joked on social media that his throws looked a little awkward because he “didn’t want to rip” his custom-made suit.
Let me say this about McGregor: I’ve never seen a more accommodating celebrity visit the Cowboys’ sideline. In about a 20-minute period, he posed for several hundred photos. I’m not kidding. Everybody…and I mean EVERYBODY…on that sideline wanted a photo with him. And he accommodated every single person. Whether it was the ball boy, the chain crew, television photographers, sponsors, Cowboys’ family members, technical crew, VIP sideline guests…I’ve never seen that many people clamoring for photos.
There were many extra guests on the sideline this week because it was the Cowboys’ “Crucial Catch” game for cancer awareness. Nancy Brinker, founder of The Susan G Komen For the Cure foundation, was down on the sideline. Even Nancy got her photo with McGregor.
Yes, I got my photo, too (and I hardly ever ask for a photo). But my nephews are huge MMA fans and absolutely love Conor McGregor. So, I want to thank him for taking time to pose for a photo because now my nephews think that I am really cool because I got a photo with their favorite sports star.
Conor McGregor was kind to every person on the sideline on Sunday. He knows how to work a room, how to make his fans happy. So many of the players were really thrilled to see him there. I liked him before Sunday, but now I’m a huge fan. Of all the really huge stars that have come onto the sideline, in my opinion, none have been more approachable or created a bigger reaction than Conor McGregor.