For a guy that makes the UFC more money than any other fighter on the roster, Conor McGregor sure seems to get in a lot of power struggles with the people running the company. It’s been a battle of wills ever since he won the featherweight title in 2015. The UFC wanted him to do an immediate rematch against Jose Aldo. McGregor insisted on a lightweight title shot instead. When he lost to late replacement Nate Diaz, he allegedly had to scream at UFC execs over the phone to make a second fight.
He won those battles. But he lost the next one when the UFC pulled him from UFC 200 over his refusal to fly to Las Vegas for a press conference. It then took him several months to convince the UFC to let him fight Floyd Mayweather, a match-up UFC president Dana White was actively hostile towards at first.
Equity in the UFC wasn’t the only stumbling block in this latest round of negotiations between McGregor and his promotion. In a series of podcasts recorded before McGregor announced his retirement, White confirmed rumors that a sticking point for McGregor vs. Cerrone in July was a demand the fight be co-main rather than main event.
White went on the UFC Unfiltered podcast and explained why he wanted a title fight above McGregor.
”Yeah that’s pretty much how we’ve done it for years,” he said. “We’ve done a couple of fights where a championship fight wasn’t a main event, and it wasn’t very great. Didn’t work out very good.”
”The reality is it’s not really what we do, but the media has been telling me they wanna see it, the fans have been saying just do it, so ... we’ll see what happens.”
White expanded on the situation during an interview on Barstool Sports’ My Mom’s Basement podcast with Robbie Fox, also recorded before McGregor’s retirement tweet.
”Yes, that did happen,” he said. “Every time I deal with Conor there’s always something to deal with, but we get it figured out. We were gonna do - the fight that was going to be on the card with him was probably going to be the heavyweight championship. Should that be the co-main event?”
Fox said hells yeah it should.
”Well, the more people I hear it from, the fans and the media and all this s**t, if I end up putting Conor McGregor not as a champion in the main event, I guess I won’t have to listen to any bulls**t, will I?” White replied. “Everybody would go mental and nuts and chirping ‘Oh, you get favoritism.’”
White reasoned that McGregor only headlined other cards above title fights when he held a belt.
”Conor McGregor is not the champion right now,” White said. “He’s ranked number 2 right now.”
White also shot down one of the potential opponents McGregor has been vocal about facing again.
”The Diaz fight? Yeah, that’s probably not going to happen,” White said. “But I would like to see him back on the [July] card.”
Of course, we know what happened next: McGregor retired over social media and Dana White sounds perfectly happy calling his bluff. When bombshell accusations of sexual assault against McGregor were revealed by the New York Times, the response from Conor’s publicist spent more time attacking the UFC than defending against the ugly allegations.
“Should Conor fight in the future, it must be in an environment where fighters are respected for their value, their skill, their hard work, and their dedication to the sport,” the statement read.
With White and McGregor clearly on different pages when it comes to compensation and card placement, we could see Conor’s latest negotiating gambit result in his legit retirement. It’d be nice if cooler heads prevailed, but the UFC seems perfectly content to end the McGregor era rather than give into any more of his demands, reasonable or otherwise.