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Conor McGregor saves SBG affiliate gym from closing because of COVID-19 lockdowns

Conor McGregor is doing his best to keep the Irish MMA scene strong, even if that means having to dig into his own pockets to throw out a lifeline.

Philip Mulpeter, owner of SBG Portarlington in County Laois, Ireland, an affiliate of McGregor’s hometowm SBG Ireland in Dublin, recently posted that the gym would have to permanently close its doors because of financial stress brought on the by COVID-19 pandemic.

Lockdowns in the country crippled the gym’s ability to do business, and as Mulpeter told ESPN, the circumstances were too much to survive.

“We’ve had three lockdowns now, and I think after each lockdown it’s hard to get the same numbers back in,” Mulpeter said. “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.”

That’s when McGregor stepped in to save the day.

Mulpeter revealed a few days after his initial announcement about closing the gym that McGregor had become aware of the situation and contacted him. The former UFC lightweight and featherweight champion offered financial aid, and although he did not reveal specific numbers, Mulpeter emphasized his appreciation.

“I didn’t know what to say to him, to be honest,” Mulpeter said. “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.

“Conor plans on entering his son into our promotion, Gaelic Atlantic Martial Arts. 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.”

McGregor (21-4 MMA, 10-2 UFC) is scheduled to rematch Dustin Poirier in his return to the octagon Jan. 23 at UFC 257. The event streams on ESPN+ pay-per-view.

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