Conor’s Latest Retirement


Jim Rome
June 08, 2020 - 10:30 am
Conor McGregor

USA Today


On Saturday, Conor McGregor announced that he was retiring. He reached for his phone and then thumbed out the following:

Hey guys I’ve decided to retire from fighting.

Thank you all for the amazing memories! What a ride it’s been!

Here is a picture of myself and my mother in Las Vegas post one of my World title wins!

Pick the home of your dreams Mags I love you!

Whatever you desire it’s yours

And then on Sunday, he told Ariel Helwani why he was retiring.

"The game just does not excite me, and that's that. All this waiting around. There's nothing happening. I'm going through opponent options, and there's nothing really there at the minute. There's nothing that's exciting me.”

He went on: "They should have just kept the ball rolling. I mean, why are they pushing [Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Justin Gaethje] back to September? You know what's going to happen in September, something else is going to happen in September, and that's not going to happen. I laid out a plan and a method that was the right move, the right methods to go with. And they always want to balk at that and not make it happen or just drag it on. Whatever I say, they want to go against it to show some kind of power. They should have just done the fight -- me and Justin for the interim title -- and just kept the ball rolling."

Normally, that would be the lead story of the day. A superstar and legend in his sport walking away, in his prime, would be absolutely huge news. Except in this case, it’s not huge. In fact, I’m not even sure it’s news. Because we’ve been down this road before.  And more than once. 

April 2016, when he tweeted:

I have decided to retire young.

Thanks for the cheese.

Catch ya's later.

That retirement lasted roughly a month and a half. He ultimately came back from that “retirement: to beat Nate Diaz at UFC 202.

Then there was the March 2019 “retirement” when he tweeted

Hey guy’s quick announcement, I’ve decided to retire from the sport formally known as “Mixed Martial Art” today.

I wish all my old colleagues well going forward in competition.

I now join my former partners on this venture, already in retirement.

Proper Pina Coladas on me fellas!

And that retirement lasted slightly more than a week and he ultimately came back from that retirement to beat Donald Cerrone earlier this year.

And at that point, Conor’s plan was to fight three times in 2020. "I had my goals, my plans, and the season. I had everything laid out. Obviously the world has gone bleeding bonkers at the minute. There's bleep all happening at the minute. They want to throw me up and down weights and offer me stupid fights. I don't really give a bleep. I'm over it."

And as further proof of that, he laid out his emotions right now: "I'm trying to get excited. I'm trying my best. And when the Anderson one came along, I was like, yeah, bleep, that's a mad fight. And then everyone said he's old and over the hill. I was, like, 'What? Fighting a former light heavyweight and the middleweight GOAT, and the actual GOAT in my eyes, that's not a rewardable fight?' And you know, you're actually right. It wouldn't be rewarded. I would go in there and put him away, Ariel, and then what would happen? They'd say he's old and he's over the hill and he's past his prime and all."

So now we complete the hat trick with the third retirement. And the question is: how long will this retirement last?

Dana White didn’t seem to be sweating it. His message wasn’t just for Conor, it was Jon Jones, Jorge Masvidal, and everyone else who is threatening to quit or retire. You don’t have to fight. If you don’t want to do this, you don’t have to.

And I get where Conor is coming from. By all accounts, he wants to fight. He really, really wants to fight. And if a fighter wants a fight, you get him a fight.  And esp. One has important to the company and promotion as Conor is. 

But there’s a business side to this. And that business side is that Conor is massive for UFC’s gate. Six of the seven top MMA fights in Nevada history are Conor fights. He is the biggest ticket draw in the sport and it’s not even close.

According to the state of Nevada, Conor-Khabib had a gate of more than 17 million, the biggest MMA gate in the history of the state. Second on the list: Conor-Cowboy. That was more than 11 million. A fight that absolutely everyone on the planet knew Conor was going to win and he still brought in more than 11 million in ticket sales.

That’s what we’re talking about in terms of gates. Having him fight right now, with no fans, would mean leaving a ton of money on the table for Dana White and the UFC. It’s different than having Amanda Nunes fight in an empty room. It’s different from having any other fight in an empty room. That’s how massive Conor is.

So I get why Dana is not rushing him to Fight Island – because it would mean leaving north of 10 million on the table.

If Conor-Khabib was more than 17 mill, what would a rematch be? Or what would Conor-Gaethje be?

And if Conor fights now and loses, how much does UFC lose as a result? No gate from that fight and no justification for a Conor-Khabib or Conor-Gaethje. You could make the argument that by letting Conor fight in an empty room, the UFC stands to gain nothing and lose everything.

But at the same time, we don’t know when fans are going to be able to return. And what kind of numbers they’ll return in. That’s the calculus here. That is what Dana is trying to deal with and trying to navigate, while at the same time deal with Jon Jones and Jorge Masvidal as well.

How long can you delay Conor fighting? Can you delay it long enough to have 10 million worth of tickets sold? Or do you have to have him fight in an empty room and give up that 10 mill? That is the massive question. And there isn’t necessarily a good answer.