Conor McGregor’s longtime teammate and friend is suing him for millions, claiming he was instrumental in launching McGregor’s Proper No. Twelve whiskey brand.
Artem Lobov, a UFC veteran, filed a lawsuit in Ireland’s High Court on Tuesday, asserting that he was a founder of the company and has not been given his fair piece of the revenue generated by the very successful whiskey, Lobov’s attorney, Dermot McNamara, confirmed with ESPN on Thursday.
The Independent was the first to report the news. The Irish newspaper reported that Lobov is seeking 5% of the proceeds McGregor got from selling Proper No. Twelve to Jose Cuervo’s parent company last year. McGregor and partners reportedly garnered $600 million in the sale. The Independent reported that Lobov’s case will attempt to show that there was a deal in place for Lobov to get a percentage, but it was not honored.
“I cannot make any comment at this stage except to say that we intend to apply in the next few weeks to have the case admitted to the Commercial Division [Fast Track Court] of the High Court,” McNamara told ESPN in an email.
McGregor is the UFC’s biggest star and once a close friend of Lobov. The two trained together for years at SBG Ireland and McGregor was Lobov’s coach on The Ultimate Fighter, assisting in getting Lobov a UFC contract. Lobov said in an interview over the summer with England’s TalkSport that McGregor once offered him $1 million for his role in Proper No. Twelve, but Lobov turned it down.
“Proper No. Twelve Irish Whiskey was created, developed, branded and tirelessly promoted by Conor McGregor,” McGregor spokesperson Karen Kessler wrote in a statement. “Any suggestion that the plaintiff has a claim to Proper No. Twelve is incorrect.”
Lobov said in that TalkSport interview in August that McGregor asked his advice years ago about the idea of starting a vodka brand in Iceland with Game of Thrones actor Hafthor Julius Bjornsson, better known as “The Mountain.” Lobov, a native of Russia who has lived in Ireland for years, said he then gave his pitch about Irish whiskey, which he did a presentation on in college. Irish whiskey, Lobov explained, was once a dominant force, but it had become essentially just a Jameson-controlled market in recent years.
“In my head I was thinking, what a better man than Conor McGregor to bring Irish whiskey back to its stardom?” Lobov told TalkSport. “He did it with fighting.”
According to Lobov, McGregor then instructed him to put a deal together, which Lobov did. When Lobov brought a deal back to McGregor, Lobov said McGregor told him to work on it with McGregor’s Paradigm management company.
“As you can see, it was a massive success,” Lobov said in the interview. “I’m really, really happy to see that and I’m happy to be part of it.”
Lobov was a key figure in McGregor’s long-running feud with fellow UFC great Khabib Nurmagomedov. In 2018, Nurmagomedov and his team cornered Lobov in a hotel hallway during a UFC fight week over comments Lobov made in the media. In a video that surfaced, Nurmagomedov appeared to slap Lobov.
The incident caused McGregor and more than a dozen others to board a plane from Ireland and then storm the loading dock of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn later that week in search of Nurmagomedov. McGregor threw a dolly through a window of a bus that held UFC fighters, which got him arrested.