Owner ‘nearly crying’ as McGregor saves gym

Philip Mulpeter posted bad news Friday on Instagram. The gym he owns, SBG Portarlington in County Laois, Ireland, would have to close its doors due to financial concerns brought upon by COVID-19 lockdowns in the country.

“We’ve had three lockdowns now, and I think after each lockdown it’s hard to get the same numbers back in,” Mulpeter told ESPN. “People lose the routine and just our numbers were dropping. Every time there was a new lockdown, we got deeper and deeper into debt. … Our landlord wasn’t giving us any break on the rent or anything like that. We had to decide to shut the doors for good.”

Then, in stepped Conor McGregor.

The UFC superstar saw the social media post and called Mulpeter, a longtime friend and former training partner at SBG Ireland. McGregor told Mulpeter not to close SBG Portarlington — he would send money to help save the gym. On Sunday, Mulpeter posted the news on Instagram that SBG Portarlington would be staying open indefinitely because of McGregor’s support.

Mulpeter wouldn’t disclose exactly how much McGregor donated, but said “we don’t have to worry for the next year or two.”

“I was like nearly crying there,” Mulpeter said of the call with McGregor. “I didn’t know what to say to him, to be honest. I’m forever grateful to him. He basically saved our little community. Words can’t express what he’s done for us. I know that he gets bad press. People don’t report on it, but he does this stuff all the time. Conor is not looking for gratitude, he’s not looking for the media to spread this around.”

What’s even more amazing to Mulpeter is that McGregor is currently in training camp in Portugal for his UFC 257 main event against Dustin Poirier on Jan. 23. The former UFC featherweight and lightweight champ took time away from his preparation to extend the gesture.

“He was just like, ‘You’re doing a f—ing amazing job, you’ve created an amazing community at the gym,'” Mulpeter said. “And he’d seen all the support online from all the parents and kids [who go to the gym]. It’s like Santa coming early for us.”

Mulpeter, a Bellator veteran, said he and McGregor met in about 2008. The two came up together as rookie fighters at SBG Ireland in Dublin. Mulpeter’s gym is an SBG Ireland affiliate. SBG Portarlington also is a host for McGregor’s FAST fitness program.

In addition, Mulpeter runs the amateur MMA and Brazilian jiu-jitsu promotion Gaelic Atlantic Martial Arts (GAMA), which Mulpeter said McGregor has also vowed to keep afloat during this tumultuous time. Mulpeter said McGregor told him he wants Conor Jr., 3, to compete for the organization one day.

“Conor plans on entering his son into our promotion, Gaelic Atlantic Martial Arts,” Mulpeter said. “He knows what we’re doing for the community. He’s just feeling bad for us and he wants to keep MMA alive. During this hard time, MMA is going to have to rebuild in Ireland after COVID. It’s great to have somebody like Conor that’s pushing and going to help us get back to where we were.”

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