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Why the UFC shouldn’t fold to Conor McGregor

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Just two weeks ago, I penned an article about Conor McGregor’s most recent blunder outside of the octagon that saw the former UFC Lightweight champion arrested on charges of strong-armed robbery, stemming from an incident where he allegedly smashed someone’s phone after they took a picture of him as he left a Miami club. Earlier this week, the Dublin native tweeted that he retired from mixed martial arts, despite an appearance on the Jimmy Fallon show when he discussed fighting earlier that day.

This “retirement” announcement isn’t new for McGregor, considering that he claimed that he retired in 2016 before he fought again when UFC management negotiated a new contract for him to return to the octagon.

Conor reemerged in the cage against Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229, losing via submission in the fourth round last October. The one-sided defeat was followed by the infamous post-fight brawl between members of each corner. The anticipated grudge match generated a record-setting 2.4 million pay-per-view buys.

With the recent announcement of the UFC pay-per-view to start as an exclusive to the ESPN+ streaming service, fans will still pay the usual $65 to access to PPV cards, but must be ESPN subscribers for the opportunity to order the events. Considering the major money the network spent to secure MMA content for the seven-year deal, it’s understandable they want to maximize their chance to use it as a way to solidify their streaming service. At the same time, it was still surprising that UFC brass was willing to departure from that traditional pay-per-view platform that garnered the promotion the majority of its revenue. It’s not uncommon for certain headliners of particular cards to get a percentage of a PPV buy rate, but how that will be determined under the ESPN+ platform remains to be seen. Depending on the actual numbers and what type of deal the UFC has for the streaming service, fighters might not necessarily make as much money on PPV points.

Ironically, a few weeks ago, Conor McGregor claimed that he wanted a percentage of the entire company as a part of a deal for him to compete for the WME-owned group again. Make no mistake about it, this latest “retirement” from the brash Irishman is nothing more than a stunt to attempt to garner a bigger payday to put the gloves on again. On the surface, it might seem like Conor, who also has a lucrative endorsement deal on a new whiskey brand, is trying to maximize his value when the opportunity presented itself. It’s no secret that he’s the top draw for the organization, and with the unpredictability of Jon Jones, the argument could be made that McGregor is the only guaranteed major draw for them. The perceived leverage that Conor would have to make such lofty demands as a share in the company is that through a series of retirements and injuries, the UFC lacked star power in most divisions.

As I’ve written about before, even some of management’s decisions on how to handle certain divisions were counterproductive to the process of new stars being made as more established competitors made an exit.

Most importantly, UFC management shouldn’t fold to the demands of Conor McGregor.

Even if it meant that the former two-division champion didn’t fight again, UFC brass can’t set a precedent of fighters getting an ownership of the company as apart of their contract to compete in the company. If management allows that for McGregor, any fighter that achieves any level of major success in the future would attempt to make similar demands, which would eventually lead to a total debacle in the organization. During an interview with TMZ, Dana White basically called McGregor’s bluff and said that it would make sense for him to retire because of the mega payday from the Floyd Mayweather boxing match. Dana also mentioned that new stars would emerge for the organization.

Part of Dana’s job is the promotional spin on news like this, but he’s actually correct when he says that new stars will be on the horizon. Keep in mind, ESPN has saddled much of the potential success of their digital service to the success of UFC events so one of the top networks in cable has quite literally a vested interest to discover and market new stars. Believe it or not, another major star will be made under the ESPN banner that fans will pay to watch fight and will thus draw numbers for the UFC.

That’s not to discount McGregor’s ability to sell himself, but rather that the sport had different stars throughout various eras and will have more stars in the future.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, Conor is really at a pivotal point in his career because he was dominated in a boxing match and then dominated in his return to the octagon. If he would lose again, it’s very possible that much of the shine of his star power could wear off if he’s exposed as more sizzle than substances in the cage. As surprising as it might sound, McGregor is overvaluing himself in this scenario. Don’t get me wrong, I hope that fighters can make as much money as possible and they have every right to try to negotiate the best deal possible for their contract. At the same time, the former 155 lbs champion made a request to own a percentage of the company just to fight, which would mean that he would have a financial stake that’s affected when his possible opponents are promoted under the UFC banner, which could be considered a conflict of interest, especially for other fighters that negotiate contracts.

The bottom line is, Conor McGregor isn’t bigger than the UFC, and as mentioned previously, it’s somewhat concerning that he could be on the path to become another cautionary tale, especially considering that he’s in the prime of his career, but he has made more headlines outside of the octagon than for his accomplishments in the sport.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta

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