LAS VEGAS – It’s been more than three months since Conor McGregor last fought, and almost 13 months since he last set foot inside the Octagon.
UFC president Dana White admitted Tuesday in a small gathering with reporters that he’s not sure when – or, significantly, if – the lightweight champion will fight again.
White said he knew nothing about reports in Ireland that McGregor was involved in a brawl in a pub in Dublin on Sunday. One of the men McGregor is alleged to have punched is a man with ties to the leader of a drug cartel in Ireland.
McGregor couldn’t be reached for comment and his manager, Audie Attar, failed to respond to messages. White said he hasn’t spoken with McGregor, but was betting the reports are erroneous.
“No, [I don’t know anything about it], but I don’t think it’s true,” White said. “Conor can walk down the street and it’s big news now. If this is true, I just have to believe it would be off-the-charts crazy.”
White said he was trying to put together a fight involving McGregor for UFC 219, which will be held at T-Mobile Arena on Dec. 30. Because of his actions earlier this month at a Bellator event – in which McGregor jumped into the cage during a fight, shoved the referee and slapped a Bellator employee – White said McGregor now won’t fight on that show as punishment.
Attar had previously denied McGregor was going to fight on the Dec. 30 show, saying his attention had always been focused on returning to the cage in the first quarter of 2018.
White admitted that he’s not so sure whether McGregor, who reportedly earned in excess of $100 million to fight Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match on Aug. 26, will ever compete again.
“Listen, Conor might never fight again,” White said as he was discussing the McGregor-Bellator incident. “He made $100 [expletive] million. I’ve got guys who made less than that who are lawyers and went to school their whole lives and quit working. When you go to school your whole life to be a lawyer, and you’re a good lawyer, and you make a few bucks and you’re done? The guy’s sitting home every day watching cartoons or whatever he’s doing. I don’t know.
“[Ex-UFC matchmaker] Joe Silva doesn’t work any more. These guys make money and that’s it. Fighting is the worst. Fighting is the worst. Try to get up and get punched in the face every day when you have $100 million in the bank. Money changes everything with a lot of people.”
White stressed that he likes McGregor and said the UFC is negotiating a new contract with him. McGregor has frequently said he wants equity in the company in his next contract, so White was asked about that.
While he said McGregor deserves to be richly paid, he stopped short of saying he deserved to be given a share of the company. He invoked NBA legend Michael Jordan’s name in his simple response.
“Did Jordan get points?” White asked, chuckling. He said, though, that “Conor can’t be paid enough money. He’s worth every penny and more.”
White said he had been speaking with McGregor’s representatives about a new deal. But he said he’s not trying to force McGregor to fight if he doesn’t want to any longer.
The fight business is different than others, White said, and it’s useless trying to urge someone to fight whose heart isn’t in it.
“Everybody always says to me, ‘You have to want this guy to fight. You’ve got to want this guy to fight,’ ” White said. “I don’t want anybody to fight unless they want to fight. This isn’t a business where you can just make people fight. You either want it or you don’t. That was my big thing with [Georges St-Pierre]. He wasn’t acting like a guy who really wants it. At the end of the day, I’m going to run this business with or without anybody.
“If Conor wants to fight again, absolutely we want Conor to come fight. But if Conor walks away and doesn’t ever want to fight again, it’s part of the game.”
White said McGregor needs to defend his lightweight title. He won it on Nov. 4, 2016, but hasn’t fought in MMA since. He also won the UFC featherweight title in 2015 but never defended that.
White said the status of the title needs to be determined, but said he’s not giving McGregor an ultimatum at this point.
“Right now with him, it’s not about defend or vacate,” White said. “We’re working on a new deal right now with him. We’ve got to work out this new deal.”
White said he didn’t expect any more disciplinary action against McGregor as a result of the Bellator incident. He did express concern about the large entourage that McGregor has gathered and compared that to his concerns about ex-UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones when Jones first won the belt.
White referred to the hangers on as “Klingons,” and said they’re almost always trouble. He said it is especially true for McGregor in Ireland, where his fame has reached unprecedented heights.
“The other thing with the Bellator thing, he’s a young rich kid who is a god in Ireland,” White said. “That’s not the healthiest environment either. I don’t know if you remember in the beginning with Jon Jones. I’d go, ‘There was no doubt the guy’s talented, but he’s young and rich and he’s the king of the world now. Hopefully he can keep it together.’ That was way before any of the crazy [stuff] started happening. And there it is, and it happens.
“What’s weird is that it happens more in this sport than in any other business, in the fighting sports. The ‘Klingons’ are the ones who drag you down, and Conor’s got a lot, too. When he travels, he’s got people for days with him. When you make that kind of money and you’re that famous, you’re going to have an overload of ‘Klingons.’ ”
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