27 Mar 2019

MMA: Connor McGregor retirement or another marketing stunt

6:44 am on 27 March 2019

Conor McGregor's "retirement" has once again set the internet ablaze, but cynicism abounds following the Dubliner's latest social media statement - and for good reason. Because, let's be honest, we've been here before.

Back in April 2016, after a disagreement over promotional responsibilities, the UFC pulled the Irishman from the main event slot at UFC 200 and McGregor infamously tweeted: "I have decided to retire young. Thanks for the cheese. Catch ya's later."

The media pounced on the story, reporting the early retirement of the sport's biggest star.

Conor McGregor during the weigh-in.


But it turned out McGregor wasn't retiring at all. He was merely using his star power as leverage to get him the fight - and the deal - that he wanted. And as a result he faced Nate Diaz in a huge rematch at UFC 202 later that year.

All good negotiators know when to walk away from the table, and McGregor has proved down the years that he's certainly a formidable negotiator. He used those skills to great effect back in 2016 and it worked out incredibly well for him. Now there's a very strong chance that he's looking to repeat the trick by threatening to walk away again.

However, McGregor has made no secret of his desire to come back.

He's offered to fight Anderson Silva in Brazil. He's hinted at a possible trilogy fight with Nate Diaz and he's enjoyed multiple good-natured social media skirmishes with current UFC featherweight champion - and former McGregor victim - Max Holloway.

Then there's the unfinished business with the man who so comprehensively defeated him in his last outing at UFC 229, current UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.

All signs seemed to point to a McGregor return in July at UFC 239, during the organisation's annual International Fight Week festivities. A bout with fellow fan favourite Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone was mooted but then seemingly scrapped, with Cerrone suggesting McGregor wouldn't accept co-main event billing. Now McGregor says he's calling it quits.

Given the above, McGregor's retirement announcement seems to fly in the face of all the noises we've heard from him since his defeat by Nurmagomedov, and suggests he's trying to put the squeeze on the UFC again.

However, the last time he tried, the UFC was run by the Fertitta brothers, who were sympathetic to the Irishman and keen to keep their biggest star on board before the UFC's record-breaking $US4bn (£3.2bn) sale.

Conor McGregor

Conor McGregor Photo: Photosport

But now the UFC is run by sports PR and management giants Endeavor, whose figurehead Ari Emanuel (the real-life inspiration for Entourage's Ari Gold character) is known as one of the toughest negotiators in the business.

However, it's worth noting that McGregor has fought just once for the UFC since their takeover, and having the Irishman compete will certainly do no harm to the company's bottom line. That may well be uppermost in McGregor's mind if he's looking to strike another lucrative deal.

The flipside to this whole argument, of course, is that McGregor really has called it a day.

And if he truly has decided to step away for good, then he leaves the sport of mixed martial arts after a career inside and outside the cage that truly matches his fighting moniker - "Notorious".