Conor McGregor faces gagging order from former friend in bid to force him to stop ‘defamatory’ tweets

Conor McGregor’s former sparring partner and close friend Artem Lobov is seeking an injunction restraining the mixed martial arts star from making further allegedly defamatory comments about him on social media.

he application was filed with the High Court after McGregor (34) used his Twitter account, which has 9.7 million followers, to call Lobov “a rat”, a “coat tail riding rat c***” and a “turn coat pr***”.

In an affidavit, Lobov’s solicitor Dermot McNamara said McGregor embarked on “a concerted social media barrage” after his client sued the former UFC champion for millions of euro.

Lobov (36) issued proceedings last month seeking the specific performance of an agreement he alleges entitled him to a 5% stake in McGregor’s hugely successful whiskey venture, Proper No Twelve.

The retired Russian-born fighter, who lives in Dublin, claims he came up with the idea for the whiskey brand but never received a penny after McGregor reneged on the agreement.

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Former professional mixed martial artist Artem Lobov arriving at the High Court in Dublin.Former professional mixed martial artist Artem Lobov arriving at the High Court in Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren

McGregor is reputed to have been paid $130m (€122m) for his stake in the brand, making him the world’s highest-earning sportsperson last year.

Mr McNamara claims that since the lawsuit was filed on November 22, McGregor has posted a series of messages on his Twitter account “with the intent of harassing, intimidating and defaming” Lobov.

He said the “most damaging” of these was a voice note published by McGregor on November 26 calling Lobov “a rat”.

The application was opened by Lobov’s barrister Andrew Walker SC on an ex-parte, or one-side only, basis today. Walker said the matter related to “a tirade of abusive and defamatory remarks”.

Mr Justice Brian O’Moore said he would be reluctant to make an order on an ex-parte basis as McGregor “may well seek to stand over the communication”.

But the judge said it was clearly a matter which should be dealt with soon and he directed McGregor be served with the proceedings today, with the matter returning to the court on Thursday.

Lobov, who went by the nickname The Russian Hammer in his MMA days, is seeking an order under the Defamation Act 2009 prohibiting McGregor for publishing further similar tweets to the one posted on November 26.

He is also seeking an order restricting the further publication of similar tweets and for Twitter to take steps to remove posts from any cached pages or online search results.

An injunction is also being sought requiring McGregor to take down the posts complained of.

The court was provided with a timeline of 17 allegedly defamatory, intimidating and harassing messages and posts on Twitter and Instagram.

It is alleged that on November 24 and 25, McGregor’s father Tony sent Lobov pictures of a rat, snakes and rats via Instagram. Tony McGregor is not the subject of the application.

On November 26, McGregor is said to have posted a voice note on his Twitter account singing three times “Artem is a rat, nah nah nah nah hey, nah nah nah nah rat”.

A further voice note on November 29 is said to have described Lobov as “a waffler” and a “silly c***”.

The same day, McGregor is said to have posted a picture on Twitter of a packet of raw sausages with Lobov’s head superimposed on them.

In a follow-up tweet, McGregor is said to have written: “Artem is trying to sue me and my father for defamation now as well ahahaja, oh lord, god bless. Artem you look like an uncooked sausage of a thing.”

Shortly afterwards, McGregor is said to have issued a “callout” in another Twitter voice note, challenging Lobov to a fight that night. McGregor is said to have called Lobov a “f***y, fairy pad” and a “little blouse”.

The Twitter messages are said to have continued over the following weeks, including several on December 15 in which McGregor is said to have variously called his former friend a “johnny head”, a “f***in jackass” and a “f***in turn coat pr***.”

Mr McNamara said that in the absence of an order McGregor would “continue at every turn” to publish such statements online.

The solicitor said the campaign of defamation and intimidation arose directly because of his client’s lawsuit.

He said he wrote to solicitors for McGregor on November 28 seeking an undertaking that McGregor would cease and desist and stating that, in the absence of such an undertaking, injunction proceedings would follow.

Mr McNamara said he received no reply.

In the affidavit, the solicitor referred to Twitter’s abusive behaviour policy, which forbids targeted harassment or the incitement of other people to harass. He said he had written to Twitter, asking it to monitor McGregor’s account.

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Conor McGregor and Artem Lobov when they were friends in 2016. Photo: Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

McGregor and Lobov were previously very close friends. They have known each other since 2008 and Lobov became McGregor’s main sparring partner in 2011.

In the proceedings issued last month, Lobov said that he suggested in 2016 that McGregor should launch a whiskey brand. McGregor had initially been considering launching a vodka.

Lobov, who has a master’s degree from DCU in Finance and Capital Markets, said he had an interest and knowledge of the area and extensive contacts in the drinks industry.

He said McGregor tasked him with finding and developing a new Irish whiskey brand and that it was commonplace for associates to be paid a 20% commission for any successful brand and product deals brought to the fighter’s attention.

Lobov said he negotiated a deal with West Cork Distillers, under which McGregor would retain 100% ownership of the brand and the company incorporated to sell the whiskey, with profits split on a 50/50 basis with the distiller. No investment capital was required.

However, after the deal was negotiated, McGregor got his management company, Paradigm Sports, and its founder Audie Attar involved. American businessman Ken Austin also got on board in 2017.

Lobov claims that at this point he was excluded from email correspondence in relation to the development of the product.

He alleges the corporate structure of the company formed to own the brand was altered to give Mr Attar and Mr Austin significant shareholdings, while the supplier of the whiskey was changed to Bushmills.

Lobov said that when he challenged McGregor as to why he had been excluded from the project and the commission payment he was entitled to, McGregor promised to restore him to all communications and offered him 5% of the proceeds.

He claims this promise was made in the presence of three other men and their agreement was confirmed with a handshake.

Lobov claims that after he gave an interview to Talksport radio last August, in which he spoke about his involvement in developing the whiskey brand, he received a voice message from McGregor denying the existence of the 5% agreement.

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