MMA journalist Peter Carroll assesses what's next for Conor McGregor after he was pulled from the UFC 200 card
UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor shocked the MMA world last night when he tweeted that he was retiring from mixed-martial-arts.
The Dubliner was preparing in Iceland for his high profile main event rematch with Nate Diaz at UFC 200 that was set to take place on July 9th in the all-new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
“I have decided to retire young. Thanks for the cheese. Catch ya’s later,” tweeted McGregor at roughly 7.30 pm yesterday.
I have decided to retire young.— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) 19 April 2016
Thanks for the cheese.
Catch ya's later.
McGregor is known for having a bit of fun in terms of what he puts out on social media, and a lot of people initially thought that the tweet was another example of that. Even celebrated UFC commentator Joe Rogan thought the Irishman was “trolling” when he first heard the news.
“He has desired to retire young,” said Rogan reading the tweet live on the latest episode of his podcast. “He could mean 34. Listen man, unless he got head kicked today and knocked into oblivion, the idea that he is going to go out on a loss like that to Nate Diaz [is crazy].”
However, Dana White appeared on Sportscenter and claimed that UFC had “pulled” him from the monumental card because of his failure to participate in some promotional requirements ahead of the event.
“We pulled 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 that we have. He’s in Iceland training and it’s not possible.
He continued: “We’ve had other instances of this where guys don’t want to do the press conference, but they have to. So Conor put out that tweet. Is Conor McGregor retiring? Only he can answer that. I don’t know, but he’s not fighting at UFC 200.”
It seems that the workload that once separated McGregor from the rest of the field has now forced him from it. The UFC president has praised McGregor’s ability to deal with staggering media obligations on numerous occasions. Back when he competed in Boston in January 2015, his last bout outside Vegas, White lauded the Irishman.
“The kid is super [expletive] intelligent," White said. “He works his ass off, too. If you knew the list of things he’s been doing, you’d be blown away. He’s been in Boston for weeks. He’s doing things for charity, he’s gone down to ESPN and done (a series of interviews), he’s done all the promos Fox needed him to do and he's done a ton of media and P.R.”
McGregor sees himself as an outlier in terms of his work rate too, as was evident in the video that coincided with his ‘Fighter of the Year’ acceptance speech from this March’s MMA Awards.
“I apologize for not being there. There’s another man that must be slain, another champion that must be dethroned. There are more numbers that need to be broken. I need to feed all you bums. I need to feed every single one of yous in the game, so I’ve got to keep working because yous bums don’t work,” declared McGregor.
The media requirements have continued to come in thick and fast. It has become commonplace for ‘The Notorious’ to leave Vegas during fight week, and his considerable weight cuts, to participate in various interviews that UFC have put in place for promoting the events he competes at.
Image: ©INPHO/Raymond Spencer
Of course, McGregor would have expected big media requirements, given the enormity of UFC 200. The MMA world has been counting down to the date ever since UFC 100 in 2009, which still holds the record for the most pay-per-view buys that the promotion ever brought in, with 1.6 million.
It was the hopes of UFC to beat that number on July 9, and with the ever-popular McGregor at the helm of the event, it was certainly a possibility.
McGregor’s schedule has been particularly hectic of late. Travelling from Portugal for a week’s training, he wasn’t even back in Dublin a full day before he left for Iceland to train alongside Gunnar Nelson at Mjolnir. He has also been incredibly active in comparison to other champions, with UFC 196 being his third bout in eight months.
To add to that, Irish MMA recently suffered it’s darkest day due to the passing of João Carvalho after he met one of McGregor’s SBG teammates at TEF on April 12th.
‘The Notorious’ wanted to retire from the sport ahead of his UFC debut because of injuries a teammate of his sustained in the fight game.
“A longtime teammate of mine had got some bad news from too many wars inside the Octagon,” said McGregor in an interview with Setanta Sports in March 2015.
“So, you know, I sat back, and the UFC had not called at this stage where I had two gold belts wrapped around my waist, and I was thinking, ‘I don’t think I want to do this. Maybe, maybe this is not for me.' This happened to my friend, who came up with me in the game and now he cannot compete anymore.”
It is not beyond the realms of possibility that Carvalho’s death has forced McGregor to consider his future in the sport.
However, his retirement is not expected to be long standing.
McGregor is a fighter. We’ve seen how his lack of punctuality (something that would guarantee a sacking in any other field) has held up a variety of UFC press events over the last year. Many seem to believe that the Irishman is off to Hollywood now, but having pulled himself from the filming of the sequel to Vin Diesel’s XXX, both the industry and McGregor himself are probably none too keen on that career change.
I would bet everything I have on McGregor appearing in the Octagon within a year of his retirement announcement.
There is simply too much money to be made for ‘The Notorious’ to walk away at this point. It is likely that cooler heads will prevail from this situation, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the pull of New York and Madison Square Garden is too much for McGregor, as the UFC look at a November date for their debut in the legendary arena.