Whether you choose to admit it or not, Conor McGregor is a superstar. And by superstar I mean he has crossed the traditional line from exceptional athlete to pop culture icon. With this flashy wardrobe, infectious smile and witty one liners, McGregor has taken the ball from fighters like Chael Sonnen and ran all the way to almost unchartered waters. Sure, Ronda Rousey has achieved similar mainstream success, but her empire wasn’t built the same as McGregors.
But over the past few weeks, the empire that McGregor and his team worked so hard to assemble has seen the foundation begin to slightly crack, and it all comes from internal structural issues. Now this isn’t to say McGregor’s star has faded in any way, he might be more well known because of this, but the once indestructible Irish warrior has seemingly spent more time whining, complaining and basically lying to the masses in an attempt to gain what he feels is rightfully his.
The latest McGregor news has him reportedly set to lure Floyd Mayweather out of retirement for a financial windfall “superfight” Of course, this report originated from The Sun, essentially the British version of an American tabloid, and used unnamed sources to confirm this bout. Nevermind that UFC president Dana White put to rest this “story” almost instantly, but does anyone not buy that it was McGregor’s own camp that are the unnamed sources quoted in the Sun story? McGregor’s longtime trainer, John Kavanagh, took to social media to tell the world:
“It’s really fine mayweather we’re having here”
Of course, the world media jumped on the chance to let the masses know about this soon to be announced bout, but conveniently ignored several major sticking points. The most obvious is that McGregor is under contract to the UFC. The odds of them letting him leave the promotion is already slim to none, but with the current issues already in place, giving him anything he wants seems like a longshot from the notoriously power hungry promotion. Remember, this situation has occurred at least twice in recent years, once with Randy Couture and Anderson Silva.
But ignore this one incident, and look at the last few weeks as a whole. Beginning with McGregor’s retirement tweet on April 19, the UFC Featherweight champion has gone out of his way to tell all that will listen just how great he is, and how important he is to the UFC. There is no doubt that from a PPV sale standpoint, McGregor is king, even if his 400 million dollar is far more than the actual number. And yes, less people did tune into the UFC 200 media event then what would have had McGregor been present. But for some reason, McGregor and his followers do not seem to comprehend that all of this is only happening because of McGregor’s actions.
It was McGregor that told the world he was retiring, claiming it was a PR stunt for the event (weirdest way to draw viewers I have ever heard of), declared he was not a promoter and only a fighter, blatantly lied when he told the world he was back on the UFC 200 card, and then claimed that he would only fight Nate Diaz, his scheduled UFC 200 opponent, or nothing. The fact that he was removed from the event only April 21, two days after his retirement Tweet, yet continued to demand and try to force the UFC’ s hand somehow is both laughable and sad at the same time.
Simply put, he is not part of the event anymore, so demanding Diaz or nothing is like a child having a toy taken away, then demanding they want that toy or nothing. The toy is already gone, so what is demanding it or nothing supposed to do, force the parents to give it back after they already gave it away to another? The UFC, while promoting a strict Code of Conduct policy apparently, has always given extra wiggle room to their stars, McGregor being one of them.
Instant title bout at Lightweight with no Featherweight title defenses, instant rematch with Diaz simply because he wanted to avenge the loss, a world tour to promote his UFC 189 bout with Jose Aldo, who ironically wanted no part of it but played along. This is ironic simply because McGregor was removed from the UFC 200 card for not wanting to participate in mandated media events. Aldo wanted nothing to do with what was essentially a McGregor promotional tour, but took part because this is part of the professional fighter’s role. It is humorous that while McGregor was winning, the limelight could not shine bright enough, but suffer a loss and it is time to avoid the masses and focus only on fighting. Despite this claim, McGregor has actually been as vocal as ever, if not more, in recent weeks, self promoting and looking for attention from any that will give it.
In an interview with Ariel Helwani, Kavanagh claimed it was “unfair” to keep McGregor off the upcoming UFC event in New York City this coming November, claiming it was a sort of retroactive punishment for the UFC 200 snafu. Sure, the UFC has a history of placing home town, state, or country fighters on certain cards to peek interest, but there is not one fighter contractual obligated, or mandated, to be included in any card based on heritage or location. And quite frankly, after all McGregor and company have said and done in recent weeks, trying to make the UFC bend to him due to fan pressure, why would they give him any extra perks?
Everyone has surely seen the reports floating around the internet regarding the financial state of UFC 200 (assumingly of course.) Claiming the event will lose nearly 50 million dollars by not including McGregor may well be true, but does any believe the UFC did not recognize this before the number crunchers exposed this bit of breaking news? Obviously the made their decision to remove McGregor knowing the event would not draw the same interest, or money, yet the still proceeded. If a company with so much focus on the financial aspect of things knowingly makes a move like this, and understands the downfall, what does that say about how serious they are taking McGregor’s behaviour?
A major portion of being a professional athlete, or celebrity, is dealing with the media. NFL fans will remember now retired Seattle Seahawk Marshawn Lynch answering numerous media questions with the now infamous “I’m just here so I don’t get fined” line. McGregor might not be a promoter, but as simply just a fighter, it is his obligation to fulfill his obligations under the terms of his contract with the promoter. And in this case, this means appearing to the media to promote the event. He cannot claim he is simply a fighter like everyone else, but then expect special treatment because of who he is. Surely some die hard McGregor fans, or die hard anti-UFC fans, will agree with him, but public agreement means very little when it comes to the UFC.
As mentioned above, former UFC Female Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey might be the only other MMA fighter who can be compared to McGregor from a visible point of view. For years, Rousey reigned supreme over not just the womens’ side of the MMA world, but the MMA world as a whole. Appearing on numerous talk shows, commercials, movies and red carpet galas, Rousey might not have always done it with a smile, but she always did it. Some might even say that her hectic media schedule led to her UFC 193 loss to Holly Holm, and no one can argue that it did not play a part. But unlike McGregor, Rousey took her loss and has yet to be seen. She wants time out of the limelight to work on glaring holes in her game, and regroup from what can only be called pure madness over the past several years of her life.
The fact that McGregor wanted time to focus only on training for the Diaz rematch was nothing anyone could debate. As a fighter, of course he wanted to get back to the gym and work as hard as possible. But once again, he cannot dictate what this focus is and when it applies to everything. If he wants time away, take it. Give up the Featherweight strap and make the move to Lightweight, which his teammate Gunnar Nelson can be quoted as saying:
“He [McGregor] does a big cut, and he doesn’t like it. I don’t think he’s going to do it that much longer. I think he’s going to move up. I think he wants to move up and I don’t blame him. I wouldn’t be able to do this cut too many times. It definitely takes it out of you, there’s no doubt. He has a lot of energy and he’ll tough through it and fight really well, even though he does this cut, but I just think, looking ahead, that this is not good for your health. I don’t think he should do it many more times and I’ve told him that. That’s my opinion.”
Of course, this is just Nelson’s take on the situation, but seeing how McGregor seemed set on staying at Lightweight had he defeated current champion Rafael dos Anjos, and many feel that the weight cut is becoming too much for the Irishman, simply step away, regroup yourself, and look to make the same impression at 155 as he did at 145.
As it stands now, the UFC has created an Interim Featherweight title, set to be awarded to either Aldo or Frankie Edgar. I cannot recall a time when an interim title was created for anything except injury or other in-house situations, but certainly not because the champion didn’t want to fight at that class for a while. Why does an entire division need to be held up so one fighter can get his way and look to avenge a loss that means little to almost anyone except him?
But again, McGregor has received special treatment for some time now, yet when he is expected to do what others do, have done, and will continue to do for years, he claims he should be treated differently again, all while just wanting to be like everyone else? The only thing that seems to be standing in the way of perhaps one of the greatest careers within the sport is his own ego and inflated sense of self worth, which he only gained due to the reasons he is suddenly against taking part in.
It can’t be both ways, and until McGregor and his people learn to understand this, things probably will not get any better. Hopefully, the UFC holds firm on their current stance, stopping this unannounced but painfully obvious attempted “power grab” from a man who does not seem to get what his role truly is. Yes, the UFC has used him and his name for sometime now, but McGregor benefitted from this arrangement as well. It may seem like a two way street, but everyone knows the UFC is the sole driver in any vehicle, and they do not take kindly to backseat drivers.