What Conor McGregor and SeaWorld Taught us About Ownership

What Conor McGregor And SeaWorld Taught Us About Ownership

Before I start this blog post, I have to give full disclosure here. I’ve actually never watched a full UFC fight, I don’t think Dana White is God (although I think he’s a hell of an entertainment entrepreneur), and I didn’t know who Conor McGregor was until about three months ago. Also, I’ve never been to SeaWorld, and until I saw Blackfish a little over a two years ago, I never really had any opinions about Seaworld.

Now, let’s get to it. You’re probably wondering, what the hell am I talking about mentioning Conor McGregor and Seaworld in the same sentence, let alone the same context? Before you jump to crazy conclusions, let me explain.

About a month ago, I started reading Extreme Ownership. A book written by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, two former Navy Seals. This book is slowly transforming my life. Extreme Ownership takes Navy SEAL stories that translate into lessons for business, leadership, and life.

The basis of this book is simple. Leadership, respect, and loyalty all start with one thing. Ownership. Taking ownership of yourself, your team, and accountability for every action you make is the first step to gaining true respect. Extreme Ownership believes that there is no such thing as bad teams, just bad leaders.

So over the last month, trying my best to practice Extreme Ownerships philosophy, I’ve noticed a glaring pattern that proves their philosophy incredibly true. It’s simple. People who take ownership of their mistakes always better their current situation. No matter how bad that situation might be. Opposite of that- people who deny and shy away from taking personal accountability, almost always worsen their situation.

1+1=2. Extreme Ownership is simple logic. Now with this philosophy in mind, let’s look at how two big brands, one corporate, and one personal, used Extreme Ownership to overcome a PR nightmare, and a big time career loss.

Let’s start with Conor McGregor. On March 7th, McGregor fought Nate Diaz. Leading up to the fight, it was no secret how much the two fighters hated each other. There was trash talk on both sides that engaged day in and day out for two weeks leading up to the fight. Some might even say that some of McGregor’s statements leading up to the fight came off as arrogant and cocky.

Trash talk aside, the fight lived up to all that was expected, except, confident McGregor lost the fight in the second round. This was where I really gained my respect for Conor McGregor. I wanted to see how he responded to his loss.

McGregor took full ownership for his loss. He praised Diaz as a better fighter than he originally gave him credit for, and he spoke about how he underestimated the fight. He took full responsibility for his pre-fight comments and actions, and owned the moment. He spoke about how in previous fights other fighters would “crumble” under his punches, but Diaz was strong enough to take his punches and hang in there. McGregor also spoke about how he would grow from this moving forward. He addressed and owned the problem (the fight loss and his pre-game actions) and then he gave a solution on how he would become a better fighter from this.

After a fight that was this hyped and anticipated the public and media responded well to Conor McGregor’s comments. Instead of bashing McGregor in the media for his arrogance leading up to the fight, they praised Diaz for his strength. I also believe that McGregor gained more fans through this situation as well. He earned the respect from fans that were unsure of him to begin with. This again, is simple logic taken from Extreme Ownership. When a person takes FULL accountability for themselves and their actions, no matter how negative it might be, the surrounding audience takes positive notice. You almost always gain respect from it.

For a full look at Conor McGregors post fight press conference, see video below. He’s a total badass.

Now let’s turn our attention to SeaWorld. We all know the PR nightmare SeaWorld has been dealing with for the past three years regarding the documentary of orcas. The documentary Blackfish exposed a very dark trade that SeaWorld had created when it came to captive whales and orcas being used for SeaWorld events and entertainment. Essentially, SeaWorld saw these wonderful creatures as dollar signs and used them as a revenue source even when they knew it would shorten their lifespan.


It’s being reported that attendance at SeaWorld since 2013 has declined 37%. Also, in July 2015, Southwest Airlines and SeaWorld ended their 26 year partnership, which has been recorded as one of the more loyal corporate partnerships to date.

The situation got so bad for SeaWorld that it’s been reported that the mega theme park has spent over 10 million dollars in PR crisis management and new marketing and rebranding efforts.

But then, in early 2016, something BIG happened. SeaWorld finally listened. Although they have never publicly said that there captive involvement in orcas has hurt the species, it finally owned the problem they created. Three years after SeaWorld came under pressure from Blackfish, the company made it public they would end it’s killer whale shows and phase out their orca program.

Once CEO Joel Manby made this announcement, for the first time in three years, social media sentiment was positive for SeaWorld.  

The logic here is simple. Majority of people want to believe in you. This is why we believe and more often than not give people second chances. It’s much easier to give someone a second chance when they admit their faults and accept that they were wrong.

SeaWorld had no choice. They had to stand up and say they were wrong, and you know what? The world took kindly to it.

The Conclusion 

The point of this blog is simple. We can practice "Extreme Ownership" in all facets of our life. But even more than that, we can see where Extreme Ownership has been implemented (intentionally or not) and has helped save a multi-million corporate brand and lessen the blow to a fighters reputation. 

Accountability. It's a hard thing to practice, and even more of a challenge to accept. But it's needed. The more I practice it in my life, the more I see it benefit in my professional ventures. At times I've been the poster child of "un-extreme ownership", so I understand how critical this practice is, and now I believe it's a critical ingredient to my success. 

I'll leave you with this. 

Fear has two meanings: Forget Everything And Run OR Face Everything And Rise. -Unknown

Join my newsletter. I share my mistakes, experiences, and my mindset to overcome. This is real life business engagement. ZERO SPAM

Name *