McGregor put out a lengthy statement that can be summed up as: HE spent too much time promoting for the last fight and got away from training and wasn’t prepared. Since he made $400 million in the last 8 months for the UFC he should have the time to spend more time on training and skip the unimportant interviews.
Now that McGregor has retired and come out of retirement in a 24-hour period it is clear that the original retirement was a power play to force the UFC’s hand into letting McGregor do limited media appearances. The original dispute arose because McGregor didn’t want to take 16 hours of travel time to make what he considered a small press conference, which would severely disrupt McGregor’s training and preparation.
To compare this situation to a different sport situation it’s reminiscent of a player strike and lockout of the NFL a couple years back. At the time the league had more leverage over the players because of the financial landscape and could get the better end of the CBA agreement on that round of negotiations. When the league is making record amounts of money the players have more leverage because the owners have more to lose by not bringing in the billions of dollars the players can generate.
Ultimately, in the lockouts and strikes, when there is enough money on the table an agreement is always made but one side is going to get the better of the other. The opportunity cost of not playing is much too high.
I don’t know what the fight contracts look like but based on the language used in McGregor’s statement there isn’t an explicit requirement to do certain promotional appearances. Many television and film contracts will require for actors and actresses to do media appearances as part of the promotion. However, it could be that Conor McGregor ultimately decides he gets paid to fight, bottomline.