With Conor McGregor seemingly announcing his retirement last week, the mixed martial arts world has been in an uproar. Or, has it? Should McGregor walk away from the sport at this moment, what, if any, impact would it cause? While some, including UFC president Dana White, claim that they believe McGregor will likely return, what if he never did? What would it mean for the UFC? What would it mean for the sport of mixed martial arts, and what would it mean for Conor McGregor? I’ll answer those three questions and give my take on what Conor McGregor’s retirement really would mean.
What would Conor McGregor’s retirement mean for the UFC?
There’s no denying that Conor McGregor is the biggest thing to ever happen to both the UFC and the sport of MMA. Since the emergence of McGregor in the UFC, the sport of mixed martial arts has become exponentially more marketable. Along with signing a landmark broadcast partnership with ESPN, the UFC was sold for a whopping $4 billion during McGregor’s tenure with the organization. And, exactly what was McGregor’s role in this?
Four out of the top five all-time UFC pay-per-view buy records belong to events featuring the Irish fighter. The number one spot, Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Conor McGregor – UFC 229, sold an unprecedented 2.4 million buys, surpassing the number two spot (also held by McGregor) by fifty percent.
That being said, would Conor McGregor’s retirement have that negative an impact on the UFC? I don’t think so. The exposure created by McGregor is real and it helped transform mixed martial arts into a mainstream sport. Keep in mind, however, that since Conor McGregor’s tumultuous twelve second knockout of Jose Aldo at UFC 194 back in 2015, McGregor has only fought four times. And, it was in this span that the UFC was sold and partnered up with ESPN.
The UFC had been riding the wave of momentum created by McGregor and the exposure that he generated, not of him actively fighting and participating in the sport. With that momentum seeming nearly impossible to wane at this point, Conor McGregor’s retirement would not mean as bad a financial impact on the UFC as many might believe.
What would Conor McGregor’s retirement mean for the sport of MMA?
At this point, “Mystic Mac” seems to be losing the charm that he once had on many fighters and fans of the sport, with almost universal condemnation for his recent Twitter tirades and sexual assault allegations. So, what impact would McGregor’s retirement have on mixed martial arts?
While many might hope that McGregor’s departure from the sport would mean a return to civility, of simpler times reminiscent of world war I pilots and the respect they had even for the enemy, I’m not so sure that would be the case. It could be that the floodgates have already been opened and the shut-off valve far from sight. Fighters have seen the marketability increase of smack talk, and the potential to jump in line for title shots. Rather than a return to simpler times, we could very well see more Colby Covingtons and Kevin Lees.
However, there is hope in sight for more traditional MMA fans. Just look at what unfolded after UFC Fight Night 147 between Jorge Masvidal and Leon Edwards. Before Masvidal’s fight with and eventual knockout of Darren Till, Edwards was vocal about his disapproval of Till/Masvidal being the main-event, claiming his fight with Gunnar Nelson should have been. Masvidal apparently took offense, and by now everyone is aware of the post-fight impromptu scrap between Masvidal and Edwards which resulted in Edwards being on the receiving end of three punches that opened a cut on his face.
Many thought that Edwards would get the immediate matchup against Masvidal, but lo and behold, it didn’t happen. Out-of-cage discord does not have to equate to the necessity of a fight happening if it doesn’t make sense for the division. Dana White said that fight between Masvidal and Edwards would always be there, but the division needed to move forward, and Masvidal was scheduled to take on Ben Askren at UFC 239.
Thus, even in these times where it seems that mouths have the potential to move up fighters more so than fists, a time many would proclaim was perpetuated by Conor McGregor, cooler heads do prevail and book matchups that need to happen, not the matchups that they’d like to see happen.
What would retirement mean for Conor McGregor?
Many people did not expect to ever see Conor McGregor fighting again after his boxing match with Floyd Mayweather, having reportedly earned over $100 million in the ten-round affair. And, with a professional MMA record of 21-4, McGregor could walk away with his head held high as one of the most accomplished fighters in the history of the sport.
However, something that separates working athletes from other types of employees is that there is only a certain window in which a professional athlete can work, and that window can close at any time. Conor McGregor knows this, and if the price is right, undoubtedly would return for a fight. Khabib vs. Conor 2 or Diaz vs. McGregor 3 are both very viable possibilities and would generate massive pay-per-view buys. Added to that, that over the last week, Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov have been incessantly jawing at each other on Twitter, and we might see McGregor inclined to step out of retirement sooner rather than later.
So, I would take Conor McGregor’s retirement announcement with a grain of salt. In fact, it was recently reported that McGregor’s announcement came immediately after requesting and being denied a share of ownership in the UFC, with Dana White reportedly replying “Michael Jordan never owned a piece of the NBA.”
White is purportedly meeting with McGregor soon to “get things figured out,” and with the publicity and pay-per-view prowess that McGregor brings, I’m more than confident that they will reach some agreement that satisfies both parties, and that we will see Conor McGregor back in the Octagon before the year’s end. So, what would Conor McGregor’s retirement really mean? Probably, it would mean a lot less than what many would believe.
What do you think? Does Conor stay retired, or does he return to the Octagon? Who do you think he would return to fight? Shoot me your ideas in the comments, and as always don’t forget to like our social media pages and share!!