Is Conor McGregor actually retired this time? The UFC community seems skeptical
UFC 250 was a hard-hitting spectacle — and Conor McGregor made sure he stole the show.
The Irishman wasn’t on the card, of course, but just minutes after Amanda Nunes‘ championship defense on Saturday night, McGregor decided to announce his retirement:
Hey guys I’ve decided to retire from fighting.
Thank you all for the amazing memories! What a ride it’s been!
Here is a picture of myself and my mother in Las Vegas post one of my World title wins!
Pick the home of your dreams Mags I love you!
Whatever you desire it’s yours ❤️ pic.twitter.com/Dh4ijsZacZArticle continues below ...
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) June 7, 2020
Now, here’s the thing. If this is the end, then the MMA world will undoubtedly miss the enthralling former UFC Featherweight and Lightweight Champion, who went 22-4-0 in the Octagon.
But with McGregor, it’s not so simple. In fact, this is the third time the Notorious One has called it quits in the past four years — first, in 2016, after a second-round submission loss to Nate Diaz in a non-title fight …
I have decided to retire young.
Thanks for the cheese.
Catch ya's later.
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) April 19, 2016
…then again in 2019, in the midst of a contract dispute, before coming back to face Donald Cerrone in a 40-second knockout win:
Hey guys quick announcement, 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!
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) March 26, 2019
And this time, like the previous two retirements, there’s a lot of speculation that McGregor could be working an angle.
After all, he hasn’t been shy about wanting to fight Justin Gaethje for the interim lightweight championship in July, likely on Dana White’s infamous “Fight Island” — a fight McGregor alluded to in comments to ESPN about his most recent retirement:
“They should have just kept the ball rolling. I mean, why are they pushing [Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Justin Gaethje] back to September? You know what’s going to happen in September, something else is going to happen in September, and that’s not going to happen. I laid out a plan and a method that was the right move, the right methods to go with. And they always want to balk at that and not make it happen or just drag it on. Whatever I say, they want to go against it to show some kind of power. They should have just done the fight — me and Justin for the interim title — and just kept the ball rolling.”
I spoke to Conor McGregor late last night following his tweet heard round the world.
“The game just does not excite me and that's that,” he said in an exclusive interview.
Much more here: https://t.co/uB0zjowx6N
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) June 7, 2020
Khabib Nurmagomedov, the undefeated UFC light heavyweight champion, was originally scheduled to fight Tony Ferguson this spring, but the combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and the timing of Ramadan (Nurmagomedov is Muslim) disrupted their clash.
Presumably, McGregor would have been in line to face the winner of that bout, after having lost to Nurmagomedov in October 2018 via submission (a fight, by the way, that UFC has made available in its entirety on its YouTube channel):
Instead, Gaethje stepped in and defeated Ferguson in May for the interim title at UFC 249. And now, as McGregor mentioned, the plan seems to be for a potential unification bout between Gaethje and Nurmagedov in September — a timetable that doesn’t sit well with the former champion.
🗣️ "There's no other challenge I want right now. I want to fight him."
— UFC (@ufc) May 10, 2020
Add it all up, and those in and around UFC aren’t quite convinced McGregor’s retirement is totally legitimate, to say the least. (Warning: Some of these reactions may contain vulgar language.)
Shortly after UFC 250, legendary commentator Joe Rogan joined ESPN and flatly said he doesn’t believe McGregor is retired:
“I don’t buy it for a second. I think Conor McGregor is trying to get you to talk about him, and you just did. What better way to get people to talk about him when there’s a spectacular fight filled with people dominating? What he did was sort of hijack the whole situation by saying he’s retiring.
“I’m not buying it.”
Gaethje, meanwhile, had less than kind (and NSFW) words for his potential opponent:
— Justin Gaethje 🇺🇸 (@Justin_Gaethje) June 7, 2020
And former Olympic wrestler and UFC fighter Ben Askren said McGregor is simply negotiating for that July fight:
See he is negotiating. I’m expecting Conor vs Justin in July on Fight Island https://t.co/ryhIIwrYSl
— Funky Ben (@Benaskren) June 7, 2020
A number of MMA journalists also added they believe McGregor will fight again, while simultaneously pointing to a growing trend of tension between UFC and its high-profile mixed martial artists:
FWIW I think Conor McGregor fights again. I don't buy retirements until fighters remove themselves from the USADA testing pool. I just hope Conor and the UFC work this out, quickly. He's too talented, in his prime and there's just so many big fights and tons of money to be made.
— Chamatkar Sandhu (@SandhuMMA) June 7, 2020
Conor McGregor retired
Jon Jones threatens to vacate his belt and walk away.
Jorge Masvidal asks to be released.
I don't believe any of these guys are truly done but the UFC has a serious problem right now with its most profitable stars. #UFC250
— Damon Martin (@DamonMartin) June 7, 2020
Even McGregor’s coach, John Kavanagh, seemed to hint the soon-to-be 32-year-old McGregor could follow in the footsteps of Michael Jordan, of all people, and come back better than ever:
At age 31 Jordan abruptly retired from basketball before the 1993–94 NBA season, he returned to the Bulls in March 1995 and led them to three additional championships in 1996, 1997, and 1998, as well as a then-record 72 regular-season wins in the 1995–96 NBA season.
— Coach Kavanagh (@John_Kavanagh) June 7, 2020
As for Dana White? He’s been down this road before — so, in his postfight press conference, White wished McGregor the best, all but certainly knowing they could be in touch very, very soon.
“We’re not going anywhere. You can retire. You can say, ‘I’m not going to fight.’ You can do whatever you want right now. Nobody is pressuring anybody to fight. And if Conor McGregor feels he wants to retire, you know my feeling about retiring: 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.”
Until then, McGregor can have his cake and eat it too … literally, apparently.
Happy retirement, indeed, Conor!
Assuming, of course, that this is goodbye.