During an appearance on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” on Monday, former two-division UFC champion Conor McGregor said he was negotiating for a July fight. That would be big news, because it would be his first fight since a submission loss to lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in their Oct. 6 grudge match in Las Vegas.
But at 10:18 p.m. Pacific on Monday, a little more than five hours after taping for “The Tonight Show” concluded, McGregor put out a tweet announcing his retirement.
“Hey guys quick announcement,” it read. “I’ve decided to retire from the sport formally known as ‘Mixed Martial Art’ today. I wish all my old colleagues well going forward in competition. I now join my former partners on this venture, already in retirement. Proper Pina Coladas on me fellas!”
Most likely, the retirement announcement is McGregor fooling around. He announced his retirement once previously, in 2016 when he was angry that UFC president Dana White demanded he attend a news conference in Las Vegas to promote a rematch with Nate Diaz at UFC 200. McGregor was training in Iceland and didn’t want to break camp to do it.
White stuck to his guns and yanked McGregor from the card. He eventually fought Diaz at UFC 202 in August of that year.
White, though, issued a statement to Yahoo Sports on Monday in which he said it makes sense for McGregor to retire. He’s young and in good health, and having success selling his line of Irish whiskey, Proper 12.
“He has the money to retire and his whiskey is KILLIN it,” White texted to Yahoo Sports. “It totally makes sense. If I was him, I would retire, too. He’s retiring from fighting, not from working. The whiskey will keep him busy and I’m sure he has other things he’s working on. He has been so fun to watch!!! He has accomplished incredible things in this sport. I am so happy for him and I look forward to seeing him be as successful outside of the octagon as he was in it.”
White told Yahoo Sports that he hasn’t spoken to McGregor in several weeks, and he described their last talk as “great.” White said he’d never had a bad conversation with McGregor.
Before sending the tweet, McGregor told Fallon, “We’re in talks for July, so we’ll see what happens. [There are a] lot of politics going on. The fight game is a mad game but as I said again, to my fans, I am in shape and I am ready.”
His reference to “politics” is apparently in regard to White saying McGregor wouldn’t headline a July pay-per-view because it’s not the main event, and he doesn’t want to have a non-title fight atop a pay-per-view show again.
It’s hard to believe McGregor would retire in his prime, particularly with so many lucrative fights ahead of him. His fight vs. Nurmagomedov at UFC 229 ended up with 2.5 million buys on pay-per-view, setting a company record. His 2017 boxing match with Floyd Mayweather sold 4.4 million, and is the second-largest pay-per-view ever, trailing only the 2015 boxing match between Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao that sold 4.6 million.
A rematch with Nurmagomedov would likely sell more than two million, while bouts with the likes of Diaz and Donald Cerrone would likely do well over a million.
If McGregor follows through on his vow to retire, he’ll do so as by far the biggest draw in the history of the sport and as one of the greatest fighters in the sport’s history.
He became the first man in UFC history to simultaneously hold championships in two divisions. He won the featherweight title at UFC 194 when he knocked out Jose Aldo in 13 seconds. Then, he became lightweight champion at UFC 205 in New York when he stopped Eddie Alvarez in the second round.
McGregor is 21-4 overall in MMA and he’s gone 9-2 in the UFC. He has had wins over the former featherweight champion Aldo and current featherweight champion Max Holloway, along with Diaz, Alvarez and Dustin Poirier.
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