Just about everyone wants to pick a fight with Conor McGregor these days. In the UFC and the boxing world alike, fighters are lining up to exchange punches with him for a share of the Irishman’s pot of gold. And though he has recently indicated that an MMA fight would be his next move, he has more than earned the right to come back to combat sports whenever, and if ever, he, and nobody else, sees fit.
Holding an MMA record of 21 – 3 with ten of those fights occurring under the UFC banner, Mcgregor has more than proven himself to be one of the most elite martial artists to have ever walked the planet. MMA fighter and sports commentator Chael Sonnen recently made the point that he has already beaten almost every major competitor who fought in the skillful bloodbath that was UFC 218; and if you think about it, he’s absolutely right.
Mcgregor’s long list of defeated opponents include names such as current featherweight champion, Max Holloway, who Conor beat after suffering an ACL tear in the second of three rounds, former featherweight champion Jose Aldo (who Coner dethroned), former lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez (who he also dethroned), and the impressive Dustin Poirier, among many others.
He is also one of a group of only four UFC fighters who have won title belts in two different weight classes and is the only one who has ever held both simultaneously. And though the UFC has since controversially stripped him of his featherweight title, he still holds the lightweight belt that he stole from Eddie Alvarez.
The bottom line — McGregor is a beast, and he has proven that over and over again.
But as his star-power has grown, so has the group of challengers seeking the opportunity to tear him to shreds. UFC fighters are upset that he hasn’t had a title defense yet and are using that as ammo to try to lure him back into the cage. Boxers such as Manny Pacquiao, and Oscar De La Hoya, on the other hand, see an opportunity for what they believe would be an easy fight should he decide to give boxing another go.
But there is a game at play here — a game of verbal taunting with one objective: to get Conor McGregor to face them for the biggest purse of a lifetime.
According to UFC president, Dana White, the recent boxing match between Mayweather and McGregor was the highest-grossing pay-per-view fight of all time, collecting a jaw-dropping 6.7 million buys or around 670 million U.S. dollars. Mcgregor reportedly took home around 100 million for that fight.
He has also been the greatest draw for the UFC for the past several years, propelling the company toward financial success. And though his per-fight UFC numbers appear small in comparison to those of his boxing debut, they are still monstrous figures by PPV standards. Diaz v Mcgregor 2, for example, pulled in a whopping 1,600,000 buys, making it the highest-grossing UFC event to date.
It’s no wonder Boxers and MMA fighters alike are gunning for a chance to fight him.
The annoying aspect of all of this to them, of course, is that the PPV king simply doesn’t need the money anymore. He and his family are already financially set for the next 15 lifetimes over. So if and when he decides to step into the cage or ring again, it will be because he wants to not because he needs to.
Furthermore, Conor and Longtime partner, Dee Devlin, recently welcomed their firstborn son, Conor Jr., to the family on May 6, 2017, a life event which surely affects the way he is processing his fighting future.
Parenthood undeniably has a way of changing one’s perspective on life. And though he did take on Mayweather after his son was born, It is certainly possible that he has become more hesitant about fighting since holding his child in his arms for the first time. And if so, who could blame him?
Exactly how much this is affecting his decision-making is unclear. But what is crystal clear is that he is thinking long-term when it comes to his health.
In a recent interview with Sky News, he revealed that, though he still has “a lot left,” in him, and “will continue to [fight],” he is very aware of the risks involved in doing so.
“I will not notice things about myself and then continue to [fight] like many others before me,” he assured. “Their health is diminished, they can’t string a sentence together; it’s a dangerous, ruthless business, and I am aware of that.”
There is much more depth to his comments than many people realize.
Injuries and even deaths resulting from MMA and boxing contests are, unfortunately, far too common. And sadly, Conor is no stranger to the pains of that reality.
A little less than five months before McGregor v Diaz 2, He helped to train his friend Charlie Ward for a fight against an opponent named Joao Carvalho that took place on April 9, 2016, in their hometown of Dublin, Ireland.
McGregor stood ringside for the fight, as well, supporting Ward in what would be the third fight of his career.
And it was brutal.
The crowd screamed with approval as both fighters were landing their fair share of blows. It could have gone either way, but in the third round, one of Ward’s punches knocked Carvalho to the ground.
Seizing his opportunity, Ward lunged at him, pinning him down. And when he had established a dominant position, he began to bash the head of his opponent – sensing he could end the fight right then and there.
And end it he did. Ward took home the victory that day via third-round TKO, but the price for his win… would be ever so costly.
Carvalho didn’t go home that night.
Following the fight, doctors quickly noticed signs that prompted them to have him sent to the hospital. And though he initially felt alright, Carvalho began to experience a headache and intense vomiting on the way there. His state was deteriorating rapidly.
Upon his arrival to the hospital, it was determined that he would have to undergo an emergency brain surgery due to the amount of blunt-force head trauma he experienced during the match. And though the medical staff tried as hard as they could to keep him alive, the damage would ultimately prove to be too much to overcome.
To the devastation of all, he would pass away two days later.
— Daily Star (@Daily_Star) April 12, 2016
Conor released the following statement on the matter shortly after Carvalho’s passing.
“Terrible news regarding Joao Carvalho.
To see a young man doing what he loves, competing for a chance at a better life, and then to have it taken away is truly heartbreaking.
We are just men and women doing something we love in the hope of a better life for ourselves and our families. Nobody involved in combat sports of any kind wants to see this. It is such a rare occurrence that I don’t know how to take this.
I was ringside supporting my teammate, and the fight was so back and forth, that I just can’t understand it.
My condolences go out to Joao’s family and his team. Their man was a hell of a fighter and will be sorely missed by all.
Combat sport is a crazy game and with the recent incident in boxing and now this in MMA, it is a sad time to be a fighter and a fight fan.
It is easy for those on the outside to criticise our way of living, but for the millions of people around the world who have had their lives, their health, their fitness and their mental strength all changed for the better through combat, this is truly a bitter pill to swallow. We have lost one of us.
I hope we remember Joao as a champion, who pursued his dream doing what he loved, and show him the eternal respect and admiration he deserves.
Rest in peace, Joao.”
He opened up further on the tragedy about five months later in an interview with Peter Flax of Men’s Health. “It’s ****ed up. I wasn’t just watching that fight. I helped train a guy to kill someone, and then someone wound up dying. This is a ****ing dangerous game. People call it a sport, but it’s fighting. I’m just making sure it ain’t me. And that’s ****ed up… ****, I still can’t believe that kid is dead.”
This may be the most difficult circumstance he has ever faced – and it will always be with him. It haunts him, it hurts him, but it also… protects him.
Now, when he steps into the cage, eyes locked on the opponent in front of him, he knows that for the sake of his beautiful, young family, his margin for error is ever so thin. Failure is not an option.
Not everyone leaves those gladiator rinks intact, and not everyone leaves them alive, either.
And tragically, that number is always growing. Two other boxers who have died in recent history as a result of their injuries include Mike Towell, who passed away on December 29, 2016, and Tim Hague, who passed away on June 18, 2017. Both died shortly after their respective bouts as a result of head trauma.
Following suit, the much younger sport of MMA has also seen around 13 deaths since its inception in 1993.
And even though many fighters are fortunate enough to escape death — ghastly injuries such as Evangelista Santos’ caved-in head, Meisha Tate’s snapped arm, and Anderson Silva’s broken shin are reminders that there can be life-altering and brutal consequences to pay for those who decide to compete in combat sports.
It is often easy to forget the perils that these competitors face in their line of work. TV networks show the fights, but they do not show the hospital visits after, the pain the fighters go through when the adrenaline wears off, or the months upon months of rehab they endure after suffering an injury.
During the boxing match against Mayweather, Mcgregor may have suffered a brain injury of his own. Ringside doctor Darragh O’ Carroll believed that McGregor suffered a concussion near the end, contributing to the stoppage of the fight.
The doctor had the following to say about the stoppage:
“Byrd’s calculation to call a stoppage was likely not based on signs of fatigue, but rather signs of traumatic brain injury. Ataxia, or dizziness and loss of balance, is one of the hallmarks of concussion, a type of mild traumatic brain injury. Fatigue may cause sluggish and slow movements, but does not cause the imbalance and poor coordination exhibited by McGregor in the 10th round. Being wobbly, in the setting of pugilistic trauma, will always be treated as the result of head trauma and not as fatigue. To let a fighter continue on would be grossly negligent.”
Just one blow to the head from a pro fighter is enough to give the average person a nasty headache. But the barrage of them that boxers/MMA fighters are subjected to during a fight? It’s downright dangerous.
All this to say, McGregor is wise to take his time in pondering his future.
If he stays true to course, though, the UFC appears to be his next target, although there’s no way to truly ever know what he’ll do. The rumors have picked up steam, however, as he recently threw a serious jab at the boxing universe. “I think a true fight is what I wanna do next,” he told TMZ Sports. “MMA next,” he added upon being pressed further.
In saying this, he was also more than likely firing back at Mayweather, who recently released a video saying he ‘Carried McGregor,’ through their match. But regardless, it seems as though Conor has his eyes set on the octagon.
Doing this next would also make the most sense for him due to his contractual obligations with the UFC. Dana White wants him back in MMA ASAP. And if Conor were to break his contract by boxing outside of the UFC’s umbrella/permission, it would likely mean a strenuous legal battle would be at hand, which he may not want to undertake. So even though Conor has been leveraging boxing against the UFC for negotiation purposes as of late, the chances are slim that he would actually follow through and breach his contract.
But if he is truly looking to return to cage-fighting, will Dana White be willing to meet his lofty demands? “They’ve got to entice me now,” he recently told SevereMMA. “I want equity; I want ownership.” “I want to be true partners in this, similar to the way I was in the Floyd fight. I was a promoter, and I was a fighter. That must continue for me to continue.”
Dana, unsurprisingly, doesn’t appear to be taking any of this seriously. But when there’s a will there’s a way. Conor’s level of desire to fight will be made clear by his willingness, or lack thereof, to work with the UFC. And likewise, White will likely have to be willing to meet Conor somewhere in the middle, at least offering a hefty paycheck to lure him back. Neither party seems to be in a huge hurry to budge on their respective stances at the moment, but time usually has a way of working things out.
If and when the stalemate does finally end, there will be no lack of bloodthirsty fighters lining up to meet him in that cage for a welcome home party. But who’s going to get the first crack at him?
Nate Diaz has been a consistent name on that list because he is the only fighter who has been able to beat him in recent history. Conor won the rematch, but there has been talk of a tie-breaker ever since. Dana White doesn’t seem too keen on planning a Mcgregor v Diaz 3 bout for Conor’s homecoming, but in this sport, you never really know what will happen.
Georges St Pierre has also recently put his name in the hat as a willing candidate. And though White shot that idea down as well, Bleacher Report’s Steven Rhondina believes that there remains a good possibility that a “superfight” between the two could happen in short order.
A fight of that magnitude would certainly shatter all previous UFC pay-per-view records in what would surely be one of the most exciting events in the history of mixed martial arts.
Nevertheless, it appears that interim lightweight champion, Tony Ferguson, is who McGregor will likely face next. In fact, that may be one of the only things Dana and Conor currently agree on.
Speaking with entertainment.ie, Conor said, “I know there are many contenders in the UFC; there are many boxing contenders as well. But what interests me is certainly a UFC bout, certainly a defense of my lightweight title. There is a fighter with the interim lightweight belt (Ferguson). I feel that will be next; we’ll see how negotiations go. The Diaz trilogy is also there — I can defend my belt against Nate. Maybe we can persuade one of these boxing opponents to step into the octagon, or there’s also boxing bouts as well. So there’s so many options.”
He then wrapped up his comments on the matter by re-mentioning Tony Ferguson.”I feel that will be next,” he said, referring to fighting the interim champ. “We are currently in contract negotiations, and we’ll see where it goes.”
Likewise, Dana White recently appeared on ESPN saying that if Conor comes back, “He needs to defend his title against Tony Ferguson.” Doubling down, he said,” Tony Ferguson is the fight right now and is the move if he wants to come back.”
But he also mentioned that the winner of Nurmagomedov v Barbosa in UFC 219 (who we now know was Nurmagomedov) “could end up fighting Tony Ferguson for the opportunity to fight Conor McGregor.”
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) December 28, 2017
Regardless of who ends up with the fight, It would only make sense that a title unification bout takes place. But the complication is that a fight with Ferguson, or even Nurmagomedov, wouldn’t bring in near the revenue that a fight with a fan-favorite such as GSP would.
The UFC isn’t currently forced to abide by the Ali Boxing Act – meaning Dana White doesn’t have to give the bout to Ferguson, or anyone for that matter; he can give it to whomever he wants. And like it or not, that usually means the one who brings in the most $$$.
So will Conor McGregor come back? We will have our answers soon enough. ‘The Notorious’ has a lot to think about. He doesn’t owe the world a thing. He hasn’t promised anything, either. But regardless, his competitive nature isn’t likely to allow him much rest.
His zombie hoard of challengers will have to wait, though, for now.