Artem Lobov Claims Proper Twelve Irish Whiskey Was His Idea
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‘This Was Actually My Idea:’ UFC Fighter Artem Lobov Claims to Be the Brain Behind Conor McGregor’s Proper Twelve Irish Whiskey

Artem Lobov

Russian fighter Artem Lobov (left) poses with Irish fighter and founder of Proper Twelve Irish Whiskey Conor McGregor. (Photo: Artem Lobov/Instagram)

Ultra-famous MMA fighter Conor McGregor’s Proper Twelve Irish whiskey brand launched in 2018 and was an immediate commercial hit. Despite the whiskey itself being nothing special, by merit of marketing and the McGregor name, Proper Twelve has enjoyed massive success and is poised to become the second-biggest Irish whiskey in the U.S. within the next five years.

In April 2021, McGregor sold his majority stake in the brand for about $155 million — evidence of the brand’s commercial triumph. But where did the idea to create Proper Twelve come from? The assumption has always been that it was McGregor’s idea, or perhaps his team, but it turns out, that’s not quite true.

McGregor’s longtime teammate and friend, Artem Lobov, revealed that it was his idea for McGregor to create an Irish whiskey brand, and apparently, Lobov actually did quite a bit of the legwork to get the brand started.

The Russian fighter teased some details about his role in Proper Twelve while promoting his upcoming book.

“The selling point of my book will be the Proper 12 Whiskey story. A few people know, but this was actually my idea. I was the person who came up with the idea to do a whiskey for Conor,” Lobov told talkSPORT.

According to Lobov, McGregor’s initial plan was to create an Icelandic vodka brand. This idea came from Icelandic strongman Hafþór Björnsson. McGregor came to Lobov for advice because he has a master’s degree in finance.

“After the second Diaz fight, me and Conor were in the gym and we were talking one day and he says to me, ‘Artem, Thor, – ‘The Mountain’ out of Game of Thrones – I was chatting to him, and he’s offered me [the chance] to do my own vodka,” Lobov told talkSPORT. “He said, ‘he was doing one in Iceland and now he’s offering me the chance to do one as well. It looks like a pretty good deal what do you think about that?'”

Lobov said he told McGregor that while he believed a vodka brand was worth exploring, he wouldn’t launch one in Iceland, since it isn’t known for vodka, and it’s an expensive country, so production costs would be steep. If McGregor wanted to start a vodka brand, Lobov told him he would get him a better deal in Russia.

However, Lobov had studied Irish whiskey history and believed the market to have a great deal of potential, so he pitched McGregor on switching routes.

McGregor told Lobov to put a deal together and come back to him.

While studying finance, Lobov had learned about Irish whiskey, but he had also worked at a bar. One of his former coworkers at the bar had ended up becoming the general manager of a hotel. Lobov’s old friend put him in touch with a representative from Ireland distribution company Classic Drinks. Lobov met with the rep and learned from him.

“Once I got that information, I went on and met all different whiskey distilleries,” Lobov said. “I called some and met some in person. I did my research and put a beautiful deal together.”

Lobov pitched McGregor soon thereafter.

“Once the deal was ready, I went to Conor and I said, ‘Conor, I have the deal ready for you. This is going to be a billion-dollar deal, no messing here.’ I’m not sure if he took me seriously or not at the time with the billion dollars,” Lobov said.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Lobov said McGregor offered to pay him a $1 million reward, but he refused.

“Conor offered me $1m but I turned it down, I didn’t accept it,” he said. “You know, throughout my career whenever I have helped Conor with camps, he offered to pay me for them camps, but I never accepted money from him.”

According to talkSPORT, Lobov did not disclose if he made any money from the business, but he will reveal that and more in his autobiography.

“With the whiskey, there was a bit more to the story about how that went about and what happened, but I don’t want to share that yet,” Lobov said. “I’m hoping my book does well and I will tell the story in the book.

Lobov retired from fighting in July 2021.

Despite no longer owning the bulk of Proper Twelve, McGregor remains a part of the brand.

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