Peter Carroll: Conor McGregor's gamble on his reputation as the UFC's golden child has not paid off

MMA journalist Peter Carroll examines how Conor McGregor is likely integrate back into the organisation after being withdrawn from the UFC's biggest event

Peter Carroll: Conor McGregor's gamble on his reputation as the UFC's golden child has not paid off

Image: John Locher / AP/Press Association Images

Conor McGregor’s public standoff with Dana White looks to have drawn to a close as the UFC president has insisted that the Irishman will not take to the Octagon for their blockbuster event, UFC 200.

‘The Notorious’ sent Irish hearts soaring Monday morning as he announced that he was back on the card, but reports quickly dismissed his announcement as the UFC claimed that McGregor’s line on the issue was “not accurate”. After White made an official statement on TMZ Sports, he spoke to the American publication again in the early hours of Tuesday morning to underline his take on the McGregor issue. 

“I don’t know,” said White when a TMZ reporter asked him why McGregor tweeted that he was back on the card. 

“I don’t know why he did it. I still haven’t talked to him, but we had a whole press conference about this topic so I don’t know how much clearer I can make it. I laid it out exactly the way it (is).” 

“Conor has stepped up before and saved some big cards for us. I have no hard feelings for Conor. Conor is his own guy, he’s going to do what he’s going to do, but he’s not fighting on 200. He’ll fight on 201, 202, 203 or whatever, but we’ll get it figured out.” 

Unsuccessful Protest 

Alas, it seems that McGregor’s great gamble on himself has not paid off. 

Things looked quite positive towards the end of last week. Despite his non-compliance with media requirements forcing his retirement and White pulling him from the card last Tuesday, when McGregor made a statement outlining that he was still ready to fight at UFC 200 on Thursday, it looked likely that he would be reinstated on the card. 

White had been far more friendly than he has been with his big stars that have stepped out of line in the past. After pulling him from the card, White began to re-open the door for McGregor. In several public appearances, the UFC president urged the Dubliner to call him so they could fix the problem, but the battle waged on. 

ESPN estimate that UFC will lose out on $45 million by not having the Irishman at the forefront of their marquee event on July 9. With that amount of money at stake, many believed that UFC would buckle under the pressure and welcome McGregor back with open arms. The whole world was talking about the rift between fighter and promoter too, and it just seemed to make sense for UFC to capitalise on the situation. 

As we have learned in the past, the promotion is adamant that no fighter is bigger than the UFC brand. Allowing McGregor to compete would have marked him out as the shot caller in the sport as opposed to White, which is unprecedented in itself, but it also could have had a knock-on effect on the rest of UFC’s roster. 

Conor McGregor pictured in the build-up to UFC 196 in March. Image: ©INPHO/Raymond Spencer 

Had he been given the “slight adjustment” he requested in terms of his media obligations, his wishes being granted would have sent a chain reaction through the roster of fighters looking for similar terms. Similarly, by highlighting he was “not yet paid to promote”, McGregor suggested that he wanted money for fulfilling his obligations. That too could have led to a big outcry from the rest of the UFC roster.  

It appears as though UFC want to make an example of surging featherweight champion to show that outlandish behaviour, as displayed by McGregor in the last week, will not be tolerated.  

Avoidable

It is absolutely undeniable that McGregor brings more attention to contests than any other fighter in the history of the promotion with his appearances at media events. The ever-quotable Irishman is known for generating headlines every time he opens his mouth. 

‘The Notorious’ let UFC know that he would not be present for Friday’s press conference on less than a week’s notice. That may have been a ploy to make the bargaining ground favour him, but you can’t help but think had he let the promotion know on a few weeks’ notice they could have organised something else for him. 

Let’s be honest, UFC could have catered to their biggest star’s demands too. Traveling from Iceland to Vegas would have affected McGregor’s camp. Knowing that it could be a problem, UFC could have sent a camera crew to Iceland to film McGregor live during the press conference. His selling power is not exclusive to Las Vegas, as he proved with in the build up to UFC 189 with the World Tour that coincided with the event.  

Future 

Unfortunately for McGregor, UFC are not likely to give him any breaks in the future based on this incident. For a long time the promotion has been accused of giving the Dubliner special treatment, but now that he has put it up to White & co., they are likely to give him a less privileged ride.

McGregor's next fight is still unknown. Image: ©INPHO/Raymond Spencer  

Exciting bantamweight prospect Aljamain Sterling’s career was stifled on the back of his announcement that he wanted to test the free agency market. Sterling wanted more money and he made his aspirations public. Despite being in top five of his division, his last fight on his UFC contract played out halfway through an undercard of a Fight Night event back in December. When welterweight contender Rory MacDonald announced his desire to test the free agency market, he was rewarded with one of the toughest matchups in his division against Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson, which will play out on June 18

The next big milestone after UFC 200 will be the promotion’s first trip to New York, which takes place on November 12 in Madison Square Garden. Dana White has already claimed that McGregor will not feature on the card, which could show the promotion’s intentions for the former golden child going forward.