Conor McGregor, the UFC’s biggest star, as much a result of his mouth as his ability to render people unconscious, sent out the following tweet yesterday that melted the internet’s edges a touch.
I have decided to retire young.
Thanks for the cheese.
Catch ya's later.
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) April 19, 2016
Whether you believe McGregor (you shouldn’t, or at the very least have a pinch of salt ready), the effect of this tweet has been seismic. McGregor’s announcement means that UFC 200 on July 9th at the T-Mobile Center in Las Vegas — which was supposed to centre on a rematch between McGregor and Nate Diaz, who choked out the Irishman in March — is now irrevocably changed. The event will go on, but McGregor is not on the card. Whether Conor McGregor is actually retired or not, the bottom line is this: Dana White and his cohorts are looking for a replacement headliner, despite the fact that a whole host of advertising has been bought with McGregor’s face on it.
What was shaping up to be the biggest promotion in the organization’s history is now in shambles. In other words, McGregor has created quite a headache.
But what about McGregor? Why retire now?
Some are speculating that after witnessing Joao Carvalho’s fight ringside last weekend — 48 hours before Carvalho’s death — that maybe McGregor decided that he’d earned enough money and there was no need to roll the dice one more time, especially against the same bigger, dangerous fighter who dealt him his first UFC defeat.
If that’s the reason? Good for him. Few fighters get out while they can, the lure of lucre on the near horizon often too hard to turn down.
But the internet is awhirl with other theories for the sudden change of heart from the reigning featherweight champion — a man who only a few days ago posted pictures of his training regimen in Iceland. The most plausible explanation so far has come from former fighter Chael Sonnen, who knows how the business works. His theory? McGregor realized he could get more money by trying to hold White and Zuffa over his imagined barrel. But, his bluff was called.
Speaking on a live Facebook chat last night, Sonnen offered this insight:
“Conor has a contract, he made a deal, and somewhere he didn’t sign it. Let the promotion go out, let the money get spent and then realized, ‘I’ve got the upper hand. Now I can come back and renegotiate,'” Sonnen said. “‘Who’s going to tell me no when the advertising is already done?’ That’s what he did. Guaranteed. With no inside knowledge, guaranteed that’s what happened.”
“He might really be done … I don’t know if he wants to be done,” Sonnen continued. “This was a negotiation tool. But he called the bluff on the wrong guys.”
For a man who is still at the peak of his physical and trolling powers, there’s little chance that McGregor is truly retired. Whether money was the issue, or the realization that he could not beat Diaz — a man who he stepped up a division to fight — the chances that McGregor has walked away from the UFC are minimal. He remains the sport’s biggest star, with plenty of fights (and money) left in him. Expect to see him back soon, but perhaps a little quieter this time — what with all that humble pie he’ll have in his mouth courtesy of Dana White.
So who is going to step in and replace McGregor and Diaz on July 9th? Georges St-Pierre’s phone must be ringing off the hook now, right?