Saturday 18 January 2020

McGregor could not quit after his first UFC loss - his legacy would be ruined

Conor McGrego. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Conor McGrego. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Daragh Keany

A brief tweet is not how Conor McGregor says goodbye to MMA.

The internet went into meltdown on Tuesday evening when UFC's leading man Conor McGregor sent out a jaw dropping, and slightly cryptic, 13-word tweet that said: "I have decided to retire young. Thanks for the cheese. Catch ya's later."

It sent fans' imaginations into overdrive. There was bizarre talk of failed drug tests and positive paternity tests. There was the notion that the former plumber from Crumlin fell out of love with the sport that claimed the life of Joao Carvalho just last weekend in Dublin.

But for those who really know the sport? No chance.

The most talked-about athlete in the sport does not go on the run that he just had, and end it after his first defeat in the UFC. His legacy would be ruined.

The man who defeated the previously-unbeaten José Aldo in 13 seconds does not "retire" 81 days before he has the chance to avenge his still-hard-to-take defeat to Nate Diaz at 170lbs last month.

Don't forget - this is an easy enough training camp for McGregor. There are no punishing weight cuts to be made.

The Dubliner who can command close to €7m per fight does not hang up his 4oz gloves on the cusp of headlining UFC200, the first ever event at the newly-built T-Mobile Arena just off the Las Vegas strip.

UFC President Dana White broke silence in the early hours of yesterday morning - but at no point in White's statement did he mention the Featherweight belt.

The notion that the already-arranged Aldo v Edgar fight would now become a title fight was non existent.

And late last night White again spoke in the US to state that he does not believe that McGregor, one of his biggest stars, is truly retired.

As more time elapses since that initially shocking tweet, this increasingly looks like it is just posturing at the highest level.

It's a heads up game of poker, and it is McGregor and White at the table.

It is a good old-fashioned 'listen here pal, mine is bigger than yours' schoolyard argument between the Dublin-born icon and his multi-millionaire employers in the UFC.

There is no kiss and tell scandal or secret drug addiction. The most X-rated thing about the 27-year-old superstar is his fashion sense.

However, this is about money, and lots of it.

Ever since the champion was signed up by the €5.2bn company he has been on a rapidly-moving juggernaut of hype, which was inevitably backed up by the incredible performances too.

As the fighters fell one by one, the stakes and pay packets got higher, but so too did the frustration between McGregor and his bosses.

While they acted like best pals throughout their mutually-financially-rewarding relationship, many felt that the Dubliner was getting too big for the company.

He was late to press conferences, he got under the skin of every other fighter in the promotion.

Yet his pay-per-view pulling power was so crucial to the promotion that they let him have it.

They fuelled that fire and now perhaps they are getting burned.

Regardless of how talks between them go over the coming days, Dana White's announcement on ESPN SportsCentre that McGregor is off the UFC200 card in July will stand. Any change to that will make the promotion look weak.

Cue a crass-yet-amusing Instagram post from McGregor sitting on the bumper of a new 6-figure motor with the words: guess who's back? He will then appear with his boss White at a press conference and announce that he is headlining the November 12 UFC event in New York City, the first there for 21 years.

McGregor will likely defend his Featherweight belt against the winner of José Aldo and Frankie Edgar on July 9.

And by the time the money starts rolling in from the New York showdown, it would seem likely the tweet of April 19 will be totally forgotten about.

Irish Independent

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