The last time Conor graced the Octagon was on October 6, 2018. It had been over a year since McGregor cashed in a 99 million dollar pay cheque for his 10th round TKO loss to boxing superstar; Floyd Mayweather. It had been nearly two years since his last UFC bout, which was when he defeated Eddie Alverez for the light weight championship to become the first dual champion in UFC history.
On the night of October 6th, Conor fell victim to a neck crank in the third round, delivered by way of Khabib Nurmagomedov. In the time that’s passed, McGregor has been serving a suspension for the brawl which was sparked when Khabib Nurmagomedov scaled the cage and then jumped into the stands in pursuit of Dillion Danis; Conor’s BJJ coach.
While he’s been off promoting his whiskey; Proper Twelve, Conor has kept his name relevant with a bunch of cryptic posts on social media and, on the odd occasion, a straight up call out.
One of said call-outs was Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, and it looked for a while like that fight would come to fruition. With rumours swirling about a showdown taking place on International Fight Week.
Shortly after the fight-talks fell apart, Cerrone came out stating he was down to fight, but Conor wasn’t interested in taking a co-main slot. In the past, the UFC have made exceptions for the Irish super star, but not this time.
Much has changed in the short eight months since McGregor last stepped foot in the cage. Make no mistake, the UFC have built their business by being a brand above all. You don’t go to watch a fighter, you go to watch because the ‘UFC’ brand is in town. Conor has been one of the very few fighters who have been able to put cracks in that wall and to push back.
However, as Luke Thomas put it, the UFC have an amazing ability to adapt and find ways to cut down any upper hand a fighter could have in negotiations, and with the ESPN deal the UFC had extra leverage and power to shutdown McGregor in the negotiations.
Now, with the new deal, the UFC will be pocketing a flat fee for every PPV they produce. No more guess work, no more estimates, just straight up cash money in their pocket and a little bonus dependent on buy-rates.
Now what does this mean? This means that they no longer need to lean on high drawing talent, sure they would love to have more buys, but with the fee in place, the UFC’s feet aren’t to the fire. This point was made by a Luke Thomas “the UFC no longer need stars, just have fighters who seem like stars”.
So where does this leave Conor McGregor, who is the biggest star in the company? Now before we walk down this road, don’t get this twisted,Conor carries a heavy sword and can still swing.
The UFC can now move and shift Conor around freely The inability to come to an agreement isn’t as much of a blow. In the past giving into Conor’s demands meant an exponential jump in revenue and an assurance that the PPV numbers will justify the concessions.
In recent years, McGregor has been adamant that he wants to own shares in the company, as he deserves them for helping to build the brand. The UFC would never have given Conor shares with the company, that would open a door they would never be able to close. Quite frankly, no fighter would be worth opening up the padora’s box that would be partial ownership.
Another key reason we won’t see Conor back anytime soon, is because he always wants to be in a title fight or the main event. Conor has shown off that he can be quick to win a belt, but not so quick to defend. With a flat fee why even have him in the title picture? Conor is such a super star that any fight he’s in will draw. The really need to keep him away from the championships and solely in high profile co-mains or mains for the sake of ‘Sport’, but we know that Conor will never accept the role of co-main event.
Conor is a money maker who has a habit of log jamming divisions when he holds the belt and when he has a belt one can bet that he’s a handful during contract talks. Keeping him away from titles, but still having him busy fighting is the best of both worlds for the UFC Their divisions move along without holdups, while having a proven star drawing and making money. If Conor is unwilling to go with the program, put him on the shelf as the fee from ESPN is more than enough to keep the number on the P&L report in the black.
No matter what the circumstance, the ESPN deal should scare fighters, if this deal has given the UFC enough freedom to cold shoulder Conor McGregor, it can only mean less room to talks with them. Granted, at this point its all speculation, the real ripple affect of the deal won’t be known until a few years in, when contracts starts running out and the players start coming to the table. With that said, this deal has very much lead to Conor being the odd man out.