The current, soon to be former, UFC featherweight champion announced his retirement on Twitter. Conor McGregor was scheduled to fight Nate Diaz in a rematch as the main event at UFC 200.
According to Dana White, White and the UFC pulled Conor McGregor from UFC 200 because of McGregor’s unwillingness to do a promotional tour for the fight in favor of training in Iceland. White said:
What’s happened is we pulled Conor McGregor from UFC 200 and we’re working on other fights right now. Conor did not want to come to Las Vegas and film the commercial or be a part of any of the marketing we have. He’s in Iceland training and that’s not possible… Is Conor McGregor retiring? Only he can answer that question.
The UFC has said that they are working on finding a new opponent for Diaz.
There are a lot of facets to this event so here we go:
UFC 200 is in serious trouble
One of the biggest events in franchise history has had enough hardships and changes made. A few months ago there were hopes that Rousey would fight Holm in a rematch of their first fight where viewers saw Holm knock out the undefeated superstar. UFC 200 is scheduled for July 9th at the new MGM-built T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
In the immediate future there will be two title fights as the main events. Jose Aldo is scheduled to fight Frankie Edgar for the interim featherweight title since McGregor is fighting in the lightweight division. The second title fight will be for the women’s bantamweight title where Amanda Nunes challenges Miesha Tate.
McGregor’s retirement is most likely a power play
The root of the disagreement seems to be that McGregor was foregoing marketing responsibilities for the fight. I think it’s a safe assumption that when talks heated up McGregor said he would retire in order to force the UFC’s hand.
In the contract I’m sure there are restrictions on how a fight can be cancelled. One is due to injury, which we have seen before. Another must be retirement. If McGregor cancelled the fight or was taken off of the fight for not fulfilling his responsibilities he might be exposed to breach of contract, which is very costly for McGregor. I’m assuming in the case of coming out of retirement the contract continues at the point that McGregor departed.
Just like in the NFL v NFLPA discussions over revising the new CBAs the negotiations are heavily influenced by whichever party has more leverage over the other. It might be that McGregor has more leverage over the UFC. McGregor creates huge PPV buys, he creates huge ancillary financial booms giving the UFC more weight when looking to put events in cities.
The UFC has always said that the brand is bigger than any single fighter, the same way that the NFL is bigger than any franchise or individual player. McGregor’s move is really going to challenge the stance of the UFC on this issue.
I don’t believe this retirement is permanent
To be Devil’s Advocate there is some reason to take this retirement seriously. First is that he may not have it in him anymore after losing to Diaz and he just can’t get up for training and fighting again after suffering a defeat. Second, he’s been paid a lot of money the last couple years and he might have looked at his financial situation and thought that the cons of continuing to fight outweighed the pros. At the end of the day, fighting is a very blue-collar sport where one is exposed to danger and gives up health in order to make money, no matter how big the amount of money is at stake. Third, a MMA fighter died last week in Ireland after being knocked out in an MMA fight and the risks might be very apparent to him.
There’s simply too much money on the table for both the UFC and Conor McGregor for there to not be an agreement between the two. It reminds me of negotiations on the NFL CBA between the Players Union and the NFL where the billions on the table guaranteed that a deal would be done at some point.