Conor McGregor, perhaps the most recognizable fighter in the world, announced his retirement via Twitter on Tuesday.
No one, it seems, knows what to make of it.
“Well, it’s been a fascinating day,” MMAFighting.com insider Ariel Helwani told Damon Amendolara and Jason La Canfora, who were filling in as hosts of CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Conor is a very big deal in our sport. He’s a massive draw. But I have just been absolutely shocked by the reaction that this piece of news has caused – not just in the MMA world, but in the general sports world and the news world internationally. It’s just been amazing.”
But what actually happened? Why did McGregor do this?
“In short, this is what we know,” Helwani began. “The UFC wanted Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz – and, for that matter, all of the other fighters who are on the three-card schedule for UFC 200 – to come to Las Vegas this week prior to UFC 197 to do a bunch of video shoots, promo stuff and take part in a press conference. And after that, they wanted Conor and Nate to go on a mini media tour to Stockton, California, which is where Nate Diaz is from, and also New York City next Wednesday. And Conor, at this point, just didn’t want to go and that created an issue. He has kind of given an ultimatum that he had to be on a plane. Nate Diaz is in Las Vegas as we speak. Once (McGregor) decided not to go, the UFC decided to pull him from the card.”
Many people assume that McGregor is simply posturing for greater compensation. After all, he’s the biggest star in the sport and perhaps he’s unhappy with his purse.
Helwani doesn’t think it’s that simple.
“A lot of people have hypothesized that this has something to do with money,” he said. “There’s no doubt that over the past six months or so, there has been some tension at times between the UFC and Conor McGregor, but I’m pretty confident in saying to you guys that this has nothing to do with money. He had already agreed to the fight. (The UFC) actually didn’t want to do the rematch with Nate Diaz, and because (McGregor has) been such a team player and a soldier and generated so much money for them, they relented and gave him the fight he wanted at UFC 200. They didn’t think, like many others, that this fight made a lot of sense. So that suggested, to me, that they were on pretty good terms as of late.”
Apparently they’re not.
Still, could this really be the end for McGregor? Could this really be the end for a global icon who has risen to the top of the sport?
Helwani sure hopes not.
“A lot of people are saying that at some point they expect him to fight again,” Helwani said. “This is a young man who’s 27 years old, who has made a lot of money, who stands to make a lot of money, who entered the UFC just three years ago. I mean, what a shame. If we could look into a crystal ball and that ball tells us that this really is the end, wow, what a travesty that would be. All signs seem to point to this (as) a classic (case of a) promoter (and) top star butting heads. Hopefully at some point they can figure this out, whether it’s later in the year, whether it’s next year, whether it’s next week – we don’t know. But Conor McGregor walking away and never fighting again at this stage, with everything that’s on the line, with all the money he could still make, with the legacy he could still have – I don’t know. I have a hard time stomaching that one.”