MMA journalist Peter Carroll assesses the impact of Jon Jones' positive drug test and the chance for McGregor to outshine UFC200
The poor sound system in the MGM Grand Arena didn’t allow Nate Diaz to hear some of the insults Conor McGregor threw his way at yesterday’s press conference for UFC 202.
Although the same electricity couldn’t be recreated in their first meeting since Diaz submitted the Irishman in the second round of their clash at UFC 196, both men will know that Jon Jones’ removal from UFC 200 will probably help them to outsell the blockbuster card when they lock horns again on August 20.
Just hours before Diaz and McGregor took to the stage, a tearful Jones told the gathered media that he would remain "unbroken" despite being notified of a potential PED violation by USADA. The test could see Jones banned for two years, but most pressingly, it forced him from the main event slot of what UFC hoped would be the biggest event in the history of their promotion.
Jones and Cormier were given the headline bout after Conor McGregor failed to travel to Vegas in April for UFC 200’s press conference. After a public standoff with Dana White, McGregor was removed from the card and former UFC heavyweight champion and WWE superstar Brock Lesnar was brought in to generate the numbers that may have been missed in McGregor’s absence.
Jon Jones wept openly yesterday during his press conference. Image: John Locher / AP/Press Association Images
When McGregor and Diaz’s rematch was announced for August 20 at UFC 202, the talk immediately turned to whether the outspoken duo would be able to outsell UFC 200.
From behind his sunglasses at yesterday’s gathering, McGregor couldn’t help but ridicule his removal from the July 9 date at the T-Mobile Arena. Especially considering that the people who were brought into to fulfill the main event and co-main event duties – Jones, Cormier, Lesnar, Mark Hunt – weren’t present at the April 22 press conference either. He also labeled UFC 202 as "the real 200".
"I wish Jon (Jones) well," he said. "I wish everyone backstage well. I know they’re running around backstage like headless chickens trying to get things together, but all I missed was a press conference.
"When I think of the main event and co-main event of (UFC 200), they weren’t even at that press conference. It is what it is. August 20 is my date, UFC 202, the real 200. And I will have my redemption."
The loss of the championship unification bout at the top of the card should have a definite impact on UFC 200’s buy rate. Brock Lesnar remains in the co-main event slot despite initial reports suggesting he would take the headline slot along with Hunt, and Meisha Tate will now defend her bantamweight title at the top of the card against Amanda Nunes. Anderson Silva will meet Daniel Cormier in a non-title fight in place of Jones.
Without Ronda Rousey involved, it seems unlikely that any other bantamweight contest could bring in masses of "casual fans" that the original lineup could have. Officially, Lesnar holds the record for most PPV buys from UFC 100. Yet, at yesterday’s event, McGregor again highlighted his belief that he broke the record at UFC 196 in his loss to Diaz.
For that reason, he is confident that UFC 200 will do "well", but it will not overwhelm the number he reached at UFC 196 or the number that he will reach at UFC 202. Based on the numbers behind Jones and Cormier’s first meeting, he doesn’t believe that Jones’ withdrawal will have much of an impact.
"I feel (UFC 200) will do well. Even though Jones and Cormier is off, their last contest did 750,000 buys. It was a five rounder. It wasn’t the best contest I didn’t feel. It was okay. That wasn’t the attraction. I feel Brock is the attraction to the card.
"I think it will do okay numbers but it won’t take UFC 196 off the top spot. It certainly won’t take 202 off the top spot. No way."
McGregor and Diaz will hope their rematch at UFC 202 will outsell pay-per-views at UFC200 and even floated the idea that there would be a trilogy of fights. Image: John Locher / AP/Press Association Images
Many felt as though McGregor’s ego would be checked significantly after suffering his first defeat in the Octagon. While he held his hands up to a certain extent when it came to his falling out with UFC in April, 'The Notorious' stressed that the promotion must accept some of the blame too.
Dana White has been vehemently denying any reports that UFC will be sold for over 4 billion dollars. Proving that he is not afraid to ruffle a few feathers, the Dubliner insisted that he was the reason that such a big price was put on the company, as the UFC president awkwardly watched on from the dais.
"I messed up the way I communicated it," said the McGregor on his public spat with White. "I think if I had reached out and said it the way I should have said it – man to man and not in public – it would’ve played a little bit better. I feel I played it wrong and they also played it wrong.
"I’ve done an awful lot for the company. I feel like I carried 2015 on my back. I feel like the reason there is a 4.2 billion price tag on the company is because of me. I believe that’s what the Chinese estimate my net worth (to be).
"I feel like I deserved a little bit of leeway, but I have to understand and communicate my stance a little better."
A win over Diaz will firmly re-establish McGregor as the promotional golden boy. Should he be able to get that win back against the Stockton native, the Irishman will be more popular than ever. Creating a new PPV record on August 20 should see him get the “leeway” he has been looking for from his employers too.