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Conor McGregor in June 2022 Leah Farrell/RollingnNews

Court dismisses ex-MMA fighter's action against Conor McGregor

McGregor had called the ex-MMA fighter a rat on social media, which a judge ruled was not defamatory

THE HIGH COURT has rejected an application by retired MMA fighter Artem Lobov for orders requiring Conor McGregor to take down allegedly defamatory social media posts about the Dublin-based Russian.

In his ruling Justice Garrett Simons, said that he was not satisfied that the statements made by McGregor on social media where Lobov is called “a rat” are “clearly defamatory.”

To call a person a rat without more does not fulfill the definition of defamation, the judge held, before he dismissed the application for various orders against McGregor.

Lobov had sought orders including an injunction requiring McGregor to remove the material from his Twitter account. 

Lobov claims that he has been the subject of a barrage of harassing, intimidating and defamatory posts by McGregor on his Titter account.

McGregor had opposed the application. 

Lobov claims that the most damaging post about him on McGregor’s Twitter account, @The NotoriousMMA, is where he is allegedly referred to in a song sung by McGregor as being a “rat”.

The High Court heard that Lobov claims that the defendant’s posts about him arise from other legal proceedings brought by him against McGregor over a purported multi-million Euro whiskey deal.

Lobov had sought an order under Section 33 of the 2009 Defamation Act prohibiting McGregor from publishing any further posts similar to those allegedly published by McGregor on Twitter on 26 November last.

The 36-year-old Russian national had also sought an order requiring the defendant, or any other person who has notice of the proceedings to cease and desist from making any similar posts on social media to those complained of.

Lobov further sought an order requiring the defendant to take down and remove any of the allegedly defamatory posts on Twitter or on any other form of social media.

The judge said in his ruling said that he was satisfied that Lobov had failed to meet the first limb of the legal test required that would allow the court grant an order under Section 33 of the 2009 Defamation Act against McGregor

The judge said Lobov claims that by being called a rat meant that the plaintiff was an informer, person who betrayed some body, a person who reveals confidential information, and a person who double crosses.  

The statement complained of in this case appeared on the Twitter account of “a world famous” MMA fighter, about another MMA fighter now retired from competition, he said.

“Trash talking” is part of that activity, the judge said, adding that Lobov was also the subject of various insults, including being called a rat that were posted on the Twitter account.

The judge that he was not satisfied that a read of this post would give the same meaning to the word rat as claimed by Lobov’s lawyers in their letter of complaint to the defendant.

It was for more likely that a reader would see the tweets as “part of a rant by a trash talking MMA fighter,” he said.

The term rat was merely one of “a series of pejorative terms” applied to Lobov, and was “not necessarily even the most insulting.”

The judge added that the word ‘rat’ when used in isolation is no more than a term of vulgar abuse.

More is required in order to succeed in a defamation action, the judge said.

Lobov, he said, had not persuaded the court that that the tweets complained about are clearly defamatory, and there was no reasonable basis for apprehending that the tweets would injure Lobov’s reputation in the eyes of reasonable members of society.

“No reasonable member of society would attach any significance to these tweets,” he added.

The judge also added that while he was of the belief that McGregor was entitled to recover his costs of the application, he would hear the parties as to the question of costs in Janurary. 

Opposing the application McGregor’s lawyers claimed that the injunction application was “wholly unsustainable”, raised issues concerning the freedom of speech and expression and that there were other alternative remedies available to Lobov.  

Lobov claimed that the defendant has no defence to the application, and that the orders sought by the plaintiff should be granted by the court.

In his action Lobov claimed that on 26 November last several posts were put on  McGregor’s account by way of voice note where it is alleged the defendant sings “Artem is ra-at nah nah nah nah, hey, nah nah nah nah hey rat” repeated 12 times.

The defendant has also allegedly referred to Lobov as being a rat in other posts, posted between late November and 15 December last on his Twitter account, which has 9.7 million followers.

 The court also heard that a picture of Lobov superimposed on a packet of raw sausages was also posted on McGregor’s Twitter account.

In other messages posted on the account it is claimed that McGregor calls Lobov a little blouse, a turn coat, an uncooked sausage, makes references to court proceedings the parties are in, and challenges the plaintiff to a fight.

Lobov also claims that as part of the campaign against him on Twitter and Instagram McGregor’s father Tony McGregor also sent him pictures of a rat, a snake and rats.  

Lobov sought an undertaking from McGregor to cease and desist from posting such material.

Lobov’s lawyers claimed they had received no reply from the defendant.

The court heard that the parties have known each other for many years, and had been close friends and sparring partners.

In proceedings that came before the Commercial Court earlier this month Lobov claims that McGregor who, along with two other shareholders, sold the “Proper No 12″ whiskey brand for €584 million to Proximo Spirits in 2021 

The deal reportedly netted McGregor €123 million, making him the highest earning sportsman in the world last year. 

Lobov claims Conor McGregor told him that “remember 5pc is yours, no matter what” when the pair discussed the future of a new brand of Irish whiskey backed by McGregor.

Lobov, seeking specific performance of an oral agreement he says the two men made when they met in the SBG gym, Naas Road, Dublin, in September 2017.

The court heard that Lobov was offered €1m by McGregor, but had refused the offer.

McGregor denies Lobov’s claim and says that in one message sent by Lobov he stated that he did not want anything from the deal.

However, Lobov failed to get his case admitted to the fast-track Commercial Court list due to delay in bringing the case which now goes through the normal High Court list. 

Aodhan O Faolain