St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner, and who better to celebrate with than Irish fighting phenom Conor McGregor. While the former two-division UFC champion has been on a bit of a break from the Octagon in recent months, that hasn’t stopped him from taking over the whiskey game with his brand Proper No. Twelve. Ahead of this weekend’s holiday, we caught up with McGregor to chat about his growing whiskey business, how he likes to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and more.
After so much success in and outside of the Octagon, why did starting a whiskey brand feel like the right move for you?
The decision to make my own Irish whiskey was very natural, almost inevitable. I’ve always loved Irish whiskey – I’m a true Irishman after all. My grandfather, god rest his soul, played a huge role in my taste for Irish whiskey. He always told me about his love for it, even when I was too young to have some. He would be proud of my Irish Whiskey, Proper No. Twelve.
Over the years, I’ve been approached by many Irish whiskey brands asking me to endorse their product. I have nothing against endorsement deals; I have several with brands and products I believe in, that is no secret. However, Irish Whiskey was always different for me. I wanted to create something that will still be here generations from now. Whiskey is timeless and we Irish make the best whiskey there is.
I think we expected creating our own Irish whiskey to be a little easier than it was. It turned into a long, complicated project, but I wasn’t going to rush the process. We all know I thrive on a challenge and on hard work. I found the best in the business; the oldest distillery on the isle of Ireland with a proven history of whiskey making. I met my master distiller, previously at Guinness and together we went through painstaking measures to create the Proper No. Twelve blend.
I love Ireland, its land and its people. I was born here, will raise my children here, and I will die here. I wanted to make a proper Irish whiskey – something that would make my people proud.
Fans have fallen in love with the Proper brand already. Were you surprised by how fast it’s grown in such a short amount of time?
The reaction to Proper Twelve has been energizing. We have reached unprecedented new heights with this liquid gold. Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world have been reaching out asking where they can purchase a bottle.
The feedback we've received on our liquid and brand has been outstanding, and the support from people around the world has made me proud and has been incredibly humbling.
At launch, I told everyone I was going to give this my all and take the whiskey market by storm, and we did just that with more to come. I expected Proper No. Twelve to be well received because it is a Proper Irish whiskey and it is very reasonably priced. It is a blend of grain and the finest single malt Ireland has to offer. The taste is full flavored, smooth and approachable. So was I surprised? No. But did I expect to sell 6 months worth of product in 10 days? Did I expect to sell out? Of course I did! You know you are doing well when your competition is reacting to you, doing all they can to slow you down and spending piles of cash targeting your brand on social media. We have not spent any money forcing the brand. It has all been organic, real and magical. We are the most followed wine & spirit brand on social media in the world already.
We will make millions of bottles just in our first year and I am proud of that. We will be in multiple countries in our first year as well which is something others said could not be done. Don’t doubt the Champ Champ.
How do you like to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day these days (aside from sipping on Proper)?
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I like to take a moment and stop and have a toast and say thank you to first responders. They are real heroes and I feel proud and lucky that we can support local first responders with sales from Proper No. Twelve.
How has fighting helped you in the world of business and growing a brand like Proper?
I always apply the lessons I’ve learned throughout my life to whatever the current project at hand is, so MMA and Proper No. Twelve is no different.
A strong work ethic, the desire to learn and holding yourself accountable will get you far. It would’ve been easy to just sign an endorsement deal or have someone else do all of the hard work, the tastings, etc. and just give me an overview. But that’s not how I do things. Throughout the development process I was in training, I was fighting, I had a kid. I’m a perfectionist, I don’t do anything half-assed. I wasn’t going to sacrifice the quality or taste of Proper No. Twelve to check it off the bucket list – this project means way more to me than that. Proper No Twelve is who I am, and although I was anxious at times to just launch it – I couldn’t wait to share it with the world – I’m so glad I took the time, put in the hard work, have the best team in the business, and launched it properly.
Everyone wants to know when we’ll see you back in the Octagon. Should we expect to see you back at some point this year?
Right now, I’m focused on my training to get back into the Octagon. I can’t tell you when that will be, but I can tell you I am ready.
Editor's note: This interview was done prior to McGregor's March 11 arrest in Miami, Florida.