August 12, 2020

Famed tattoo artist Steve Butcher details 12-hour process of creating Conor McGregor ink

When a client walked into his shop last week asking for a Conor McGregor tattoo, Steve Butcher had a vision of what he wanted the piece to look like.

“I really wanted to do one of Conor where he had a nice shirt on, his glasses on and he’s smiling, looking like a rich guy,” Butcher told MMA Fighting. “Because I love that about him, that cockiness about him. He wasn’t going for it.”

The customer, Luke Lorenzen, wanted his McGregor tattoo to be “The Notorious” in “fight mode,” Butcher said. So, that’s what the famed artist from New Zealand — known for his brilliant sports portraits — ended up doing.

The finished product, a bare-chested McGregor with the Irish tricolor wrapped around his shoulders, ended up being a masterpiece of nuance. And it looks exactly like McGregor. Butcher said the tattoo took 12 hours to create, which is not uncommon for what he does. The piece is on Lorenzen’s hamstring, from the back of his knee almost up to “his bum,” as Butcher put it.

“It’s a lot of work,” Butcher said. “Achieving the level of detail takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of layers and a lot of building up the colors and stuff like that. Most of those portraits take about 10-to-12 hours, so it’s hard for the customer to sit there for that long. But I’m pretty gentle, so they seem to last the time.”

Butcher said he had to find a high-resolution, high-quality photo of McGregor through Google to get it just right. The hardest part was duplicating McGregor’s own gorilla tattoo. That’s right — Butcher had to create a tattoo of a tattoo.

“It was difficult, because I’m a realistic tattoo artist,” Butcher said. “So when I have to do traditional tattoos that are on someone’s chest, it’s like, ‘Man, this is not my style, so it’s kind of scary.’ But I think I did a pretty good job, I think I managed to put in some straight lines. I don’t do a lot of line work, so I’m glad it looks like his tattoo.”

Butcher travels the world for his art. This McGregor tattoo was done at FY Ink in Toronto. Butcher is known for his sports tattoos, creating incredibly realistic renderings of stars like Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Rocky Balboa and more.

This was not his first UFC tattoo, either. Not even his first McGregor tat. Butcher tattooed a bloody McGregor and Nate Diaz on a client last year. And another client got a Robbie Lawler tattoo, taken from a scene from Lawler’s war with Rory MacDonald at UFC 189.

As for McGregor’s own tattoos, it’s a mixed bag, Butcher said. He’d love to get McGregor in a room and tattoo him, he said.

“I mean, he’s got some pretty terrible ink, bro,” Butcher said. “I love the one on his chest, it’s super clean. But the tiger on his stomach, that one could use a bit of work.”