McGregor v Poirier III
When it comes to the world of sports entertainment, intrigue, excitement and, as the name suggests, entertainment, are the ingredients of success. In a sport as individual as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in particular, naturally it falls to the individuals within that establishment to provide the source of entertainment.
Conor McGregor has proven himself to be one of the most marketable and renowned characters in the sport. His unrivalled ability to trash-talk his opponents and incite a frenzied crowd at his back helped to propel hm to early stardom.
As the titles and victories flowed through his illustrious career, McGregor suddenly announced his retirement in 2016 at the age of 27 after a loss to Nate Diaz. In the time that followed, McGregor returned from retirement on three separate occasions as the alluring enticement of the professional sports world was too much to ignore. In the light of his most recent return to the Octagon, the Irishman suffered a shocking leg break in the first round, forcing a Doctors’ Stoppage and bringing his future into considerable doubt.
Conor McGregor first signed to the UFC on a multi-fight deal with Dana White in 2013. From there, he rattled off a series of consecutive victories, many of which were ended early, and became the first fighter to hold multiple UFC titles in different divisions; all of which fuelled the fire that propelled him to stardom within the industry. McGregor became renowned for his brutal and unapologetic responses to his opponents in the build up to fights that often intentionally looked to incite or cause controversy.
All of this combined to create a loyal and vocal fanbase for the sole Irish fighter in the organisation, creating a fervent excitement around each and every one of his fights.
With the nickname of the ‘Notorious’, McGregor credits his old coach who coined the name in memory of the late rapper after Conor used to repeatedly get himself into trouble. In 2017, a documentary on his monumental progression to international stardom by the same name was released by Universal Pictures, depicting the struggles of his early career through to his exploits both in and out of the Octagon.
As time grew on, McGregor’s attentions were pulled in different directions and the prospect of making money became an integral angle to which he committed to fights and potential career prospects.
In one of the most highly anticipated and promoted cross-discipline fights of all-time, McGregor committed to fighting undefeated Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match in 2017. The fight saw a hybrid set of rules, determined by Mayweather, in which the two would trade blows in an exhibition 12 rounds in a special pay-per-view event. Naturally, the biggest star in UFC and the greatest boxer of the modern era had a significant pull to the fans that were clamouring to see the contest. After holding his own in the early rounds before eventually losing, McGregor took home over $85million for the fight. On the same night, Floyd Mayweather netted an astonishing $275million according to Forbes.
McGregor v Poirier III
McGregor jumped back briefly to UFC in the aftermath of his professional boxing debut but after announcing his retirement once more at the start of 2020, he was lured out of it by the prospect of a rematch with Poirier following his victory inside 2 minutes back in 2014. Despite the excitement that surrounded the rematch at UFC 257 at the start of 2021, Poirier forced a second round TKO to set up an inevitable trilogy fight which took place at the start of July.
The trilogy fight headlined UFC 264 and drew significant pay-per-view purchases, all serving to benefit McGregors’ final earnings. At the second fight in January, ‘The Notorious’ was reported to have earned over $5million for taking part in the fight and after pay-per-view earnings took home and additional $20million, contributing to Forbes announcing him as the highest paid athlete of the year.
Despite the astronomical amounts of money McGregor is able to make from his fights, it was very much his legacy and future that was called into question when at towards the end of the first quarter, his back foot gave way to a brutal leg break. The fight was stopped immediately and ruled as doctors’ stoppage, still translating to a loss for McGregor.
At the age of 34, Conor now faces a significant recovery period before any potential return can be considered. Despite the early loss, his status as the most marketable and intriguing fighter in the industry remained untouched. To date, all 5 of the UFC’s most purchased fights involved McGregor and his trilogy fight at the start of the month amassed an astounding 1.8million sales, making it the second-highest selling card in the history of the company,
The Future of Conor McGregor
A 3-hour operation to stabilise his leg rounded off an evening in which McGregor fell out of the top 5 rankings in the UFC. Doctors’ expect around a year on the sidelines and although they believe he will make a full recovery, a return to elite level MMA right now seems an optimistic proposition.
For a man with a net worth in excess of $400million, it has been his business deals that have accounted for the majority of his earnings, despite the extensive payouts he receives in return for his fights. As a result, the prospect of retiring to the world of competitive fighting at the age of 35 might be a step too far for the man that’s taken the sport to unprecedented heights.
History has shown that the UFC without Conor McGregor is worse for it, with viewing and pay-per-view purchases declining in comparison to his headline fights. Whilst the lack of headlines in the immediate future may somewhat remove him from the spotlight, don’t bet against the rumours circulating of a rematch with Floyd Mayweather becoming a realistic prospect once McGregor is able to return to training and restore himself to the fore of the competitive fighting industry.