Conor McGregor calls China ‘barbaric’ for delivering faulty masks

Society & Culture

The China Sports Column is a SupChina weekly feature. 

Mixed Martial Arts megastar Conor McGregor has slammed China for exporting personal protective equipment (PPE) that falls below the specifications required by the Irish government.

In a series of tweets on Saturday, the 31-year-old criticized China for delivering overpriced, unsuitable PPE. He also urged Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar to rescind his gratitude to China and begin to manufacture the medical supplies in Ireland.

In the first tweet, the Irish star quote-tweeted his reaction to the claim by Irish Health Chief Executive that some of the PPE fell below standards for medical workers. McGregor blamed China for jacking up the prices on all the PPE, calling it “ludicrously inhume behaviour.”

He followed that up by quote-tweeting Varadkar and demanding the prime minister “take back” the thank you to Chinese premier Lǐ Kèqiáng 李克强 for the medical supplies. The former UFC two-weight champion described the actions of China as “barbaric,” as well as posting #FlattenTheirNose.

In his final tweet, McGregor asked for “Irish produced equipment” or “Western produced at least.”

Of course, McGregor’s tweets have not gone down very well with Chinese online users, who let the MMA star know about it.

McGregor’s most recent Weibo post was one that wished fans a Happy St. Patrick’s Day. A typical comment now reads like this one from “Xiang-wen-jing,” who posted in English: “Get out of here, bro! Your face like ass! F**k you! Maybe next time to die is you!”

While anger remains focused on McGregor, the UFC will no doubt be wary of letting something like this spill over and hurt the brand, like what happened to the NBA last year.

McGregor is the undisputed biggest mainstream star for the UFC, and the fighter most closely tied to the brand — one that is eager to capitalize on the success of strawweight champion Zhāng Wěilì 张伟丽 to expand into China.


Tianjin Tianhai secure funding, salvage CSL eligibility

Tianjin Tianhai

Tianjin Tianhai has secured a lucrative 250 million yuan ($35 million) sponsorship arrangement from Vantone Holdings, shoring up the finances of the debt-ridden club and temporarily earning it a reprieve from banishment.

The club was on the brink of expulsion from the Chinese Super League (CSL) after missing the deadline last month to submit financial and player information.

While the sponsorship is nice, it wasn’t exactly the ideal outcome for the team. Tianhai’s parent company, Quanjian, had been in talks with Vantone, a Beijing-based property corporation, since the end of last year about a takeover.

Early in 2019, the Quanjian group was hit by a massive financial scandal that resulted in a nine-year jail term for the former chairman and founder of the company, Shu Yuhui. The scandal left the football club in a precarious position.

While the terms of a takeover were agreed upon on March 13, a Chinese Football Association rule that forbids CSL clubs from changing ownership after January 10 means that Quanjian remains in control of the team.

In the meantime, Vantone will fund the club as a sponsor until it can complete the takeover.

Reported debts at Tianhai are around $145 million. The reported sponsorship deal will see the club survive and function to the end of the season — whenever that may be.


Signs of life in the CBA despite further indefinite delay to sports

Shanghai Sharks

The Shanghai Sharks announced on Friday that its full roster, including its foreign players, is back at practice.

The Yáo Míng 姚明-owned team, currently sitting in a dismal 16th place in the CBA, began training after its overseas players — Jared Cunningham, Ray McCallum Jr., and Donatas Motiejūnas — completed their mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine.

The return of the CBA, initially slated for mid-April, has been pushed back indefinitely by the General Administration of Sports. But most teams are working toward a resumption next month.

The China Sports Column runs every week on SupChina.