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Zuhosky’s Take #3: Is Conor McGregor Only in It for the Money Now After Three Retirements?

We know that there are two certainties to this life, those, of course, being death and taxes. Now we can add a third certainty to life: Conor McGregor staging a 10-minute retirement in MMA. These kinds of “retirements” are nothing more than an old hat for “The Notorious” at this point in his MMA career, as he’s now staged them three times.

McGregor’s First Retirement

McGregor first staged a retirement about five years ago, when he decided to step away from mixed martial arts following a second-round submission loss at the hands of Nate Diaz during the UFC 196 headlining bout on pay-per-view, ending his career a month later before reversing course and returning to the UFC in time for the rematch against Diaz that July in UFC 202. That fight saw McGregor exact revenge on Nate Diaz, besting his opponent via unanimous decision after five rounds of action in Las Vegas and evening the all-time series between the two at a win apiece.

From there, McGregor would remain an active fighter in the UFC until 2018, when he battled Khabib Nurmagomedov in the main event of UFC 229 for the UFC’s lightweight championship. That October night in 2018, Nurmagomedov locked in a neck crank submission in the fourth round of the scheduled five, but the story was hardly over from there.

Post-Fight Fracas Ensues and Sets off Lengthy Bans for Both Men

After the fight, the spectators got another fight between McGregor and Nurmagomedov; this one was much uglier. Nurmagomedov, who was then the champion, jumped over the cage and proceeded to attack Dillon Danis, then a teammate of McGregor’s, with the melee only getting worse from there.

Upon security clearing the UFC Octagon, Bruce Buffer announced that Nurmagomedov had successfully defended his belt in an empty ring and to a booing audience inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

The decision was made for Nurmagomedov to be announced as the champion in an empty Octagon.  Therefore, not setting off a worse reaction from the fans in Vegas that night.

UFC President Dana White revealed in an interview during the UFC 229 Post-Fight Show on FS1 (the UFC’s cable television rightsholder inside the United States at the time) with Megan Olivi that the offending parties were placed under arrest and would spend the rest of that evening behind bars.

In the aftermath, the following penalties by the Nevada State Athletic Commission were levied to McGregor and Nurmagomedov:

Conor McGregor: Six month suspension from competition, $50,000 (USD) fine.

Khabib Nurmagomedov: Nine-month ban from competition, $500,000 (USD) fine.

Both McGregor and Nurmagomedov could have had their respective bans reduced, contingent upon the men recording an anti-bullying PSA. Neither McGregor nor Nurmagomedov would agree to shoot this public service announcement.

McGregor’s Second Retirement

A few months removed from the McGregor/ Nurmagomedov brawl after the UFC 229 main event in Las Vegas, the former made an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on NBC, taking to Twitter that following morning to announce that he’d be retiring from MMA for the second time in less than three years, saying:

“Hey, quick announcement. I’ve decided to retire from the sport formally (sic) known as “Mixed Martial Art” today. I wish all my former colleagues well going forward in the competition. I now join my former partners on this venture, already in retirement. Proper Pina Coladas on me fellas!”

This retirement was quickly walked back by McGregor, although he would not fight again until January of 2020, knocking out Donald Cerrone in the headlining bout of UFC 246 on pay-per-view in just 40 seconds.

The Third Time Wasn’t the Charm

Not long after that fight, COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic by the CDC. Per state, local, and federal guidelines, the UFC went on pause, being the first organization to return to action in May of 2020.

It took less than a month after the UFC’s return for Conor McGregor to make headlines, when on June 5, 2020, against the backdrop of UFC 250’s main event, he announced his retirement from MMA for the third time.

Joe Rogan, who was onsite for UFC 250 in Las Vegas at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, found Conor McGregor’s third career retirement to be worth a deli’s worth of bologna, saying:

“I don’t believe it for a second. I think Conor McGregor’s trying to get you to talk about him, and you just did it. There is no better way to get people to talk about him when there’s a spectacular fight filled with people dominating. What he did was just sort of hijack the situation and said he retired. I’m not buying it.”

Rogan’s suspicions were proven accurate last September when Conor McGregor was subjected to a drug test while he was on his yacht, with McGregor briefly linked to a boxing match against Manny Pacquiao in early 2021; a fight that never came to pass.

In January, McGregor and Dustin Poirier battled in the headlining bout of UFC 257, a fight won by Poirier.  McGregor and Poirier were then signed to a trilogy bout during the July 10 UFC 264 main event. 

Is Conor McGregor in MMA for the Money Now?

First and foremost, the sport of mixed martial arts is a business, and McGregor knows the business side of MMA like the back of his hand at this point. Just take a look at some of “The Notorious”‘ career stats from the business side of combat sports:

  • Most popular pay-per-view athlete in history

  • Fought on a pay-per-view with the highest buyrate in the history of MMA

  • Headline a boxing pay-per-view that holds the second highest buyrate in PPV history

  • According to Forbes Magazine this year, he’s the highest-paid athlete in the world, taking home approximately $180 million (USD).

As long as McGregor wants to keep fighting, then he’ll keep fighting, but he’s also focused on strengthening the brand of Conor McGregor.

All things considered, McGregor’s MMA career serves a double purpose at this point.

Follow me on Twitter at @DrewZuhosky to see my latest work. Also, follow us on social media at @OTHeroicsMMA to stay tuned in with our content! Please visit our web page to keep up with everything MMA!

Featured Image Credits to: Embed from Getty Images

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