Earlier this week, the UFC’s top star, Conor McGregor was arrested after an incident where he allegedly smashed someone’s phone outside of a club in Miami, Florida. The former two-division champion was charged with a felony, strong-armed robbery and criminal mischief, and was taken into custody before he was released on $12,500 bond.
This latest incident puts doubt around his return to the octagon, with recent rumors suggesting potential opponents for his next bout in the cage.
Reportedly, the confrontation started because someone took a picture of the MMA fighter as he was leaving the club, which prompted McGregor to grab the phone and smash it on the ground. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first felony he was charged with, as the brash Irishman was initially charged with a felony offense, stemming from the infamous bus incident last April in Brooklyn. That arrest resulted from when McGregor threw a moving dolly through a bus window that transported the fighters booked on that weekend’s card, and there were injuries that caused event to be shuffled. Eventually, the charges were reduced and Conor pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct, which saw him ordered to complete community service.
Footage of the bus incident was later used in commercials to promote the Conor McGregor vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov bout at UFC 229, which generated a record-setting 2.4 million buys.
As was well-documented, after Khabib won via submission in the fourth round of a mostly one-sided contest, he jumped over the octagon and fought members of McGregor’s corner. A complete brawl began when people from Nurmagomedov’s team stormed the cage to attempt to attack Conor. The McGregor and Khabib fight teams continued to brawl while security attempted to restore order in the building. Post-fight, Khabib cited Conor’s previous comments about his family as the reason for the outburst after the victory. Granted, McGregor’s antics are just to sell the pay-per-view, but Khabib took it as a serious insult. Both fighters were retroactively suspended in January, but realistically, neither suspension delayed when each competitor was expected to compete again.
However, the post-fight brawl and this latest incident are apart of a pattern that suggests that McGregor might think that he can get away with these ridiculous antics because of his status in combat sports.
Make no mistake about it, Conor McGregor draws major money, and that “buys” him a certain amount of latitude, similar to how he can buy a savvy lawyer to navigate this legal jeopardy for him. It also allows him to remain an important fixture of the UFC’s business plan because the organization needs star power to sell its $65 pay-per-view events. The lack of star power on the roster resulted from a combination of retirements, shaky structure within particular divisions, and a general over saturation of shows during the Fox deal. But, the ESPN contract allows for a more productive schedule and increased exposure for a new generation of fighters so it’s definitely possible that more fighters will have a platform to make a name for themselves.
With Conor’s arraignment on these most recent charges scheduled in a few weeks, there are several questions about the future of the former 155 lbs champion. While there’s no doubt that the $100 million payday from his Floyd Mayweather boxing match in 2016 along with sponsorships and UFC bouts provided him with financial security, what direction does McGregor’s career go from here? At the very least, something as petty as a smashed phone will delay him from competition in the prime of his career.
The problem could arise that McGregor will become more sizzle than substance, an aspect that some MMA purist will already point toward despite his success in the sport. While he’s undoubtedly a talented striker, the Dublin native lacks a solid ground game and his four career defeats are via submission. UFC brass carefully promoted and marketed McGregor as the top star in the organization, allowing him the opportunity to win championships in two divisions. But, he never defended either belt and was stripped because of his hiatus from MMA. He took two years away from the octagon for the mega fight against Floyd, which saw him stopped by TKO in the tenth round. His anticipated return to the cage last October ended a lopsided contest with a submission defeat.
Fans haven’t seen Conor victorious in combat sports in two and half years, with no indication of when he will fight again. Does that mean his popularity will plummet? No, but if he loses his next bout, much of the shine could fade from the star of Conor McGregor. Keep in mind, there was a time when Ronda Rousey’s meteoric rise in MMA looked unstoppable but when the hype around her was derailed by one-sided defeats, her stock dropped in MMA. The point is, the buzz even around McGregor could decrease if he can’t remain competitive in the sport. Obviously, another court case won’t be beneficial to the preparation of his next fight in the UFC.
More than anything, the biggest takeaway from this latest incident is that Conor McGregor should make better decisions and he’s smart enough to know better than to get involved in something this petty. He’s smart enough to create a Ric Flair-inspired brand and market it to the main stream, but he gets himself charged with a felony because someone took a picture of him in public. The previously mentioned ESPN deal is a major step to cement UFC as something more than just a modern trend, but rather a prominent addition to main stream sports in the United States. Some of Conor’s outrageous antics reinforce some of the negative stereotypes that were around the sport prior to the exposure of mainstream television.
There are numerous examples of cautionary tales in sports and some of the biggest names in history had a fall from stardom. Conor McGregor should make smart decisions in the future before his antics outside of the octagon overshadow 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
E mail firstname.lastname@example.org | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta
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