UFC superstar Conor McGregor caused a stir in the sports world on Tuesday when he tweeted out of the blue that he was retiring.
The reaction was mixed. On one hand, McGregor is just 27, perhaps the second most popular fighter in the world, next to Ronda Rousey, and he was booked for the huge UFC 200 fight in July in a rematch against Hector Diaz, the only fighter to beat him in the last two years.
However, McGregor also expressed sorrow after fellow fighter Joao Carvalho died from injuries he sustained during a fight in April. McGregor, one to soak up the spotlight, would seemingly revel in announcing a sudden retirement and causing hysteria.
Later on Tuesday night, UFC president Dana White announced on “SportsCenter” that he was pulling McGregor from the UFC 200 card.
“We’ve pulled Conor McGregor from UFC 200,” White said. “And we’re working on other fights right now. Conor did not want to come to Las Vegas [this week] to film the commercial or be a part of any of the marketing that we have. He’s in Iceland training and [not participating in the marketing] is not possible.”
White continued, saying that promotion is a mandatory part of a fight, and McGregor refused to do it.
“You have to do the press conference, so Conor put out that tweet. Is Conor McGregor retiring? Only he could answer that question.”
According to Yahoo’s Kevin Iole, this seems to be the center of the drama. McGregor is training in Iceland, and White and UFC were demanding he fly to Las Vegas to promote UFC 200 at UFC 197 this weekend. With media already in Las Vegas for the 197, they could get a jumpstart on promoting 200, which will have at least three title fights.
As Iole explains, McGregor, one of the most popular stars who’s done more than his share of promotion in the past, would have to fly from Iceland, making at least one connection before getting to Las Vegas. It would be more than half-a-day’s worth of travel, and with the promotional work to do in Las Vegas, he would miss at least two days of training.
Iole also notes, that it’s easy to understand why White demanded McGregor be there. He’s the star of the show, and no promotional effort is complete if the face of the event is missing.
Iole explains that after days of working with McGregor to try and schedule his travel plans, McGregor was still refusing to abide. When UFC was ready to pull him from the fight on Tuesday afternoon, McGregor’s manager Audie Attar tried to bring both sides back to the table. Hours later, when a deal still couldn’t be completed, McGregor published his retirement tweet.
I have decided to retire young.
Thanks for the cheese.
Catch ya’s later.
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) April 19, 2016
It’s unclear if McGregor is at all serious about retiring. After all, he tweeted he was training in Iceland less than 24 hours before his cryptic retirement tweet.
It seems as if this is a ploy to test White and UFC. According to Iole, it’s not a broken relationship:
The idea that there is some kind of serious business dispute going between Conor McGregor and UFC management is overblown. There is not. It’s more like they’re annoyed with each other.
It appears they’re more than a bit irritated with each other, and each with good reason, but it hardly appears they have got irreconcilable differences and are headed for divorce court.
Now it may come down to a game of hardball. Though UFC would undoubtedly be hurt by McGregor’s absence, he’s hardly the first big-name fighter to leave the sport — yet, the sport still survives. As Iole explains, UFC management are far more experience in negotiations, and it’s hard to see McGregor as anything but an underdog if the two sides get into a staring match.
Again, given McGregor’s age, popularity, and general dominance over the sport, it’s hard to believe he would walk away in the prime of his career over a small dispute.