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Audie Attar and Conor McGregor: Paradigm’s 1-2 Punch

Audie Attar sits down with Boardroom to discuss his career journey, partnering with and managing Conor McGregor and his ventures at Paradigm Sports Management.

In a span of just a few days, Audie Attar flew from London to Los Angeles before jetting to New York right after St. Patrick’s Day to promote the premiere of Amazon’s Road House remake, which he’s an executive producer on along with his client and business partner Conor McGregor.

How Attar got to this point, traveling the globe as the founder and CEO of Paradigm Sports Management and aligned with perhaps the most impactful and influential UFC fighter ever, is the epitome of the American dream.

As a child, Attar and his family left his native Iraq for Southern California, playing sports growing up at a high enough level to earn a football scholarship at UCLA at safety. He developed with the Bruins to the point where he was tasked with hosting big recruits who were visiting campus, showing off Westwood and the team’s program. While Attar wanted to be an entrepreneur, someone planted a seed in his head to become an agent. It became a natural career goal.

Toward the end of his UCLA career, the Sept. 11 attacks brought out a lot of racism toward someone whose only “crime” was being Iraqi, hatred that began when he was 11 during the 1991 Gulf War.

“I got into a bar fight because someone called me a terrorist and saying a lot of Islamophobic things towards me,” Attar told Boardroom. “It was the second one in my career, and the coach decided to keep me off the team but have me remain on scholarship.”


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Without the transfer portal, the only way to play another season of football was to go down to Division 1-AA (now FCS), which he did at Idaho State. Attar then returned to UCLA for his last quarter, graduating with a sociology degree in 2002. He then began working as an NFL agent, signing a couple of college teammates before landing USC pass rusher Kenechi Udezi, a first-round pick with the Minnesota Vikings in 2004.

Not satisfied with agency life after several years, Attar enrolled at Pepperdine in Malibu for business school, also earning a master’s certificate in dispute resolution at Pepperdine Law. Attar wanted to build himself a platform rooted in sports management, founding Paradigm in 2009 before graduating in 2010.

At the same time, the UFC, mixed martial arts, and social media were all concurrently bursting onto the global scene. As Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube exploded in popularity and ubiquity, UFC signed its first rights deal, where it made money in 2011, a seven-year deal with Fox. Attar wondered if MMA could be his first big business opportunity.

“This had a ton of marketing potential,” Attar said. “The brand recognition is so high because it’s not only them competing without any armor, but there’s also the qualitative parts of the business. They have to promote themselves, get on the microphone and do fight week media obligations, be all over social media, and really try to sell a fight.”

Few, if any, MMA fighters had managers or advocates pushing to increase their piece of the pie while also embracing the cutting edge in social content and business ventures. Athletes had a direct, unfiltered voice for the first time, so Attar saw an opportunity to create scalable, disruptive brands.

“I remember my business plan was laughed at by a lot of people,” he said. “But you’ve got to have conviction and be ready to weather the storm because it’s not a linear journey.”

UFC was still an unknown commodity, with nontraditional contract structures for fighting that still wasn’t legal in many US states. The first fighter Attar managed, veteran Chris Lytle, maintained a job as a firefighter in between matches. Like any sports agent or manager, Attar had to recruit and compete for clients by pitching what he’d bring to the table.

His next big client was British fighter Michael Bisping, who later became the first British UFC champion when he won the middleweight title in 2016. At the time, Bisping was ready to move to the U.S. and build his brand there. Attar helped guide him through that process.

When McGregor first signed with UFC in 2013, he was a two-division champion in Europe at a mid-major promotion called Cage Warriors. The Dubliner was considered a big-time prospect at the time, and Attar was naturally intrigued.

“He was very charismatic,” Attar said. “He had the ability to transcend the sport.”

Right before his UFC debut that April against Marcus Brimage, Attar joined a Skype video call with McGregor and his coach John Kavanagh. Attar was immediately enamored by McGregor’s energy and personality. They started working together before McGregor’s American debut in August against Max Holloway, where he won via decision but tore his ACL.

As McGregor evolved as a fighter and a bankable superstar, winning titles in 2015 and 2016, Attar laid out a vision to become business partners and entrepreneurs together. Athletes, he continued, are so used to getting paid right away for an endorsement deal, an appearance, or a social post that taking equity deals was a foreign concept at first.

“It wasn’t an industry norm,” Attar said.

The success of Proper No. Twelve, a whisky brand McGregor founded in 2018, helped execute other equity deals moving forward. But No. Twelve may not have gotten off the ground if not for his landmark 2017 boxing match against Floyd Mayweather.

It was an unprecedented format at the time, a champion MMA fighter crossing over sports to fight one of the best boxers of all time. Early on, UFC wasn’t interested.

Dana White went on the record saying he’ll back up Tom Brady on the New England Patriots before the fight ever happens. Attar praised McGregor’s natural instincts, playing up banter with Mayweather on social media, where McGregor has 47.4 million Instagram followers, to help make the bout happen and get commercial buy-in.

“When we got that done, we saw that as a launching pad for something even better from a business perspective,” Attar said. “From an industry perspective, it showed that there’s demand from the consumer to see some fights not necessarily in traditional formats or even the new UFC format. Now you see it all the time.”

Every celebrity or influencer fight with the Paul brothers, KSI, Mike Tyson, and others probably never would’ve happened if not for The Notorious MMA. And before the Mayweather fight, Attar said, ventures involving equity and IP rights weren’t successful like Proper No. Twelve became.

McGregor had the same ambitions with his brand as a fighter in the octagon: to create a legacy and put a stamp on an oversaturated, hyper-competitive industry that began in his native Ireland. Attar and McGregor then had to nail having the right partners, expert operators, supply chain access, route to market, and other key logistics.

“With Proper No. Twelve, he was the majority shareholder and founder with big institutional partners,” Attar said before a majority stake in the brand was sold to Proximo Spirits in 2021 at a $600 million valuation. “That was a big proof of concept.”

Since then, Attar and McGregor have built a slew of successful businesses, including Forged Irish Stout, pain relief brand TIDL Sport, fitness brand McGregor FAST, and menswear brand August McGregor. Outside of McGregor, Attar and Paradigm are focused on Huupe, an AI-powered basketball hoop that tracks shots and helps train athletes of all levels. Attar is actively looking for disruptive products or services for early-stage investments.

McGregor hasn’t fought since 2021 after suffering a broken tibia and fibula in his lower left leg. It’s been a long recovery that’s allowed him to focus on not just business and other ventures but pursuits he never had time for. That led him to star in Amazon‘s recent remake of Road House, which reportedly drew 50 million viewers to Prime Video over its first two weekends, a record for an original movie on the streamer.

Attar said McGregor resisted acting for a long time, declining roles in Predator, Vikings, and at least a half dozen other projects. McGregor may not be an actor, but he’s most certainly an entertainer. Road House finally provided the right timing and circumstances.

(Photo courtesy of Amazon)

Brad Slater, who Attar works with at Endeavor, said he and McGregor had to read the script, which they both loved and Attar executive produced. They were both impressed by producer Joel Silver, who’s worked on Diehard, The Matrix, Lethal Weapon, and many other action classics, and director Doug Liman, who was an executive producer on Suits and the Jason Bourne franchise.

“The role initially for him started a lot smaller than it became, and working on getting the UFC attached to it was great,” Attar said. “The acting is no joke, long days for months at a time. And this is when he was first able to actually do anything on that leg that snapped, which was awesome to see because it challenged him in a different way.”

Studios have already reached out to discuss franchises and multi-picture deals built around McGregor, which could come in a year or two, Attar said. Attar has stuck with McGregor over the years despite a history of arrests on charges including dangerous driving, assault, and disorderly conduct.

“Look, he’s human,” Attar said. “At the end of the day, you have to have conviction and belief that the person you’re working with is who you know they are. When you believe in someone or something, you fight for it.”

McGregor has been in the UFC’s drug testing program as part of his path to return to the octagon. Attar said he still has the itch to fight, and we’ll soon know the specifics of when and where that will happen, with Michael Chandler as someone who makes sense to match up with for his comeback.

“The return fight’s going to be huge,” Attar said. “He wants to stay active and continue to compete. So hopefully, we get two fights in this year.”

At Paradigm, Attar will continue to build and scale businesses, with new numerous new deals on the horizon. He and McGregor have been partners now for more than a decade, and the two are only beginning what Attar hopes is a fulfilling and lucrative lifetime together.

“I consider him like a brother,” Attar said. “We’ve experienced so much personally and professionally together, so it’s a very honest, genuine, direct relationship on both sides. It’s not just transactional. It’s a genuine relationship, a genuine dynamic.”

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Shlomo Sprung

Shlomo Sprung is a Senior Staff Writer at Boardroom. He has more than a decade of experience in journalism, with past work appearing in Forbes, MLB.com, Awful Announcing, and The Sporting News. He graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2011, and his Twitter and Spotify addictions are well under control. Just ask him.

About The Author
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung is a Senior Staff Writer at Boardroom. He has more than a decade of experience in journalism, with past work appearing in Forbes, MLB.com, Awful Announcing, and The Sporting News. He graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2011, and his Twitter and Spotify addictions are well under control. Just ask him.