Is the UFC Crumbling?

Several superstars want out and Conor McGregor has retired for the third time in four years

Mystic Mac has done gargantuan things for Dana White’s company. He’s done something that no other fighter has come close to.

He’s transcended the world of the fight game. He’s in popular culture, and he’s a name that most households recognize immediately. When somebody says cryptocurrency, you think bitcoin. When somebody says UFC, you think Conor McGregor. He’s become the most-watched highlight reel for mixed martial arts on YouTube and has had documentaries to immortalize his success — one of which is on Netflix.

And that’s not an easy thing to accomplish. The UFC is filled with superstars that probably exceed Conor by most metric. In the last 3 years, Conor has fought twice. Yet, Conor’s pull in the UFC is unequivocal and universally understood.

Conor’s third retirement announcement. June 6th, 2020. Source: Conor McGregor’s Twitter.

In a world that has had superstars such as George St. Pierre, Anderson Silva, Demetrius Johnson, Chuck Liddell, and Royce Gracie, it’s hard to single out one person that had the most impact in transforming the fight game.

Today, with Jon Jones, Henry Cejudo, Israel Adesanya, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and Kumaru Usman, it’s become that much harder to choose a single superstar.

Yet, the UFC fanbase, Dana White, and the world all seem to love Conor McGregor. They love his antics, they love his personality, they love his character, and they probably love his accent.

In the wake of his third abrupt departure, Dana White had this to say:

“Nobody is pressuring anybody to fight… and, if Conor McGregor feels he wants to retire, you know my feelings about retirement — you should absolutely do it. And I love Conor. … There’s a handful of people that have made this really fun for me. And he’s one of them.”

Dana White shares the same enthusiasm about Conor as the people do. Partially, I’m certain this is due to the insane numbers that Conor puts up anytime he fights. Whether people want to see him win or lose, people just want to see him in that ring. The ‘red panty night’ effect Conor has spoken so liberally about is certainly true.

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Source: Wikipedia, largest PPV buys.

Everybody wants to fight Conor McGregor. He’s amazing money for the UFC, he’s amazing money for Dana White, and he’s definitely great money for his opponent. Of the top six largest UFC pay-per-view events, he was in five of them. Even his last fight that ended in a blink of an eye against Donald Cerrone placed him 16th on this list with a million pay-per-view buys.

Conor’s retirement comes at a strange time. With the coronavirus and the UFC resuming on a remote island with no fans, Jon Jones and Jorge Masvidal, two superstars in their own right, have begun speaking out against Dana White. Both of them have demanded to be released from their contracts.

“The amount of people that I have gunning at me right now is insane.” — Dana White

With three potential stars absent, Dana seems content with bashing on two of them:

“I tarnished you? You’ve done a very good job of tarnishing you.”

Dana White recently told the press that “nobody needs to fight”, stating the UFC essentially hires fighters as independent contractors and nobody is holding them to practice or a specified schedule.

With the UFC currently in a state of limbo, Dana is probably right.

The past has seen this:

First retirement. Source: Conor McGregor’s Twitter.

And this:

Second retirement. Source: Conor McGregor’s Twitter.

They’re ultimately irrelevant, and Dana knows this better than anybody. Conor has still come back. Stars have come and gone. Powerhouse players have retired. Dana White picked up the UFC when it was in shambles and believed that the sport could prove financially viable. He believed it was something that people would want. He literally pulled the sport out of the shadows to a place where everyone can accept and enjoy it.

He built it out of an idea. The UFC itself was just a name and a conceptual sport with no merit. It came from nothing.

I can’t help but think that, even in all this turmoil, the UFC is in the right hands. Dana White will always know what to do.

Conor will likely come out of retirement. Jorge Masvidal will either accept his next fight because he has to out of contractual obligation or renegotiate with better pay. Jon Jones will want to earn the title he recently relinquished back. This is the fighter’s mentality.

There was probably a time in Dana’s life where it wasn’t imaginable to have a star such as Forest Griffin in the UFC.

Today, you have Jon Jones, Jorge Masvidal, Israel Adesanya, and a dozen championship level fighters lining up in the lightweight division.

At the top of it all, you have the Conor McGregor.

It wasn’t too long ago that it was thought to be impossible for something like this to ever exist.

As the sport continues to grow, the semblance of destruction will always rear its ugly head. Nobody should mistake this for the end. Appearances disappear, especially as new players in the game develop with the growth of the UFC’s spotlight. The best will always recognize the UFC as the ultimate test in fighting greatness.

It’s likely that the future will hold several Conor McGregors, Jorge Masvidals, or Khabibs. As the competition tightens up, the sport ultimately gains more viewership, more pay-per-view buys, and more money from its gate.

The problem of payment will never end. Fighters will always demand more money, even as the revenue for the sport increases.

“I think everybody wants more money… These other sports are trying to figure out how to negotiate with their players to pay them half their usual salary. Some of these other sports might not even come back this year.” — Dana White

Fighters built the sport to this point.

“Anybody who doesn’t want to fight doesn’t have to fight. Including Masvidal and Jon Jones and all these other guys.”

The next superstar is always eager — and willing to fight.

Source: Conor’s UFC debut.

Written by

UC Berkeley, mathematics. Los Angeles. Long-time runner. Top writer on Quora, 100M+ total content views. New to Medium. Inquiries: Moumj@berkeley.edu

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