In a sport that is constantly searching and developing new stars, no one has ever captured the public’s attention like Conor McGregor. ‘The Notorious’ has become a larger than life figure, polarizing the masses with his candor but alas, it has not come without it’s setbacks.
From what appeared to be out of nowhere, McGregor signed with the UFC and raised havoc. One by one, he defeated his opponents, answering each critic along the way, until one day, we all woke up and he was the first ever champion, holding two divisional belts simultaneously.
While debates ensued that he would have to first defend the featherweight title, he went on and won the lightweight title. He was then ‘stripped’ of the title and we were led to believe he was going to defend the 155 lbs strap. Then he signed on to fight Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather.
He has yet to defend any of the titles he has won, so the UFC gave others the opportunity to become champions, one of which is Max Holloway at 145 lbs while Tony Ferguson holds the interim lightweight strap.
Conor’s life has gone from relative unknown to one of the world’s highest paid and prolific sports stars. But the statement that ‘it’s gotten to his head’ continues to rain down from all corners of the MMA globe.
From a bout being halted by referee Marc Goddard, when Conor was octagon side barking instructions to his teammate, to eventually jumping into the cage at a Bellator event, having a confrontation with Goddard, slapping a Bellator official and simply raising the eyebrows of all pertinent observers.
As it stands today, Conor may have to serve a suspension and/or pay a fine for his actions. He has subsequently been pulled off the UFC 219 card, a situation Fightful MMA Managing Editor Sean Ross Sapp eloquently described as ‘getting a refund on Wolf Tickets’.
There was never an announcement of McGregor on the UFC 219 card. Giving the UFC the benefit of the doubt, perhaps they were in the final stages of getting the deal signed, but now, thanks to Conor’s behavior, they are searching for a ‘new’ main event.
The scope of Conor’s power is grand, as his legacy thus far in the UFC has been one that supersedes the norm. His brand power has grown to such a massive scale, welterweight veteran Sean Pierson told me that ‘The Notorious’ holds the ‘Million Dollar Belt’, akin to when WWF/WWE’s Ted DiBiase bypassed all the other belts and created his own.
When it comes to McGregor, rankings do not mean much. Neither do the contenders. What matters to him and the UFC is who will be the biggest draw opposite the Irishman. It’s not about who deserves the title shot, it’s about who deserves the lucky right to stand inside the octagon with him.
While the future is currently uncertain for McGregor, all we can do is wait to see what reprimands he may have to face. From there, the sport and scope may change. Current opponents may not even be relevant anymore. While we are enamored with the available options today, will they still be the ones when it’s time for Conor to return to action?
From Nate Diaz, to Tony Ferguson, to Khabib Nurmagomedov and Georges St-Pierre, the current options are fantastic, and they likely will still be just as great in 2018. But for now, the man who appears to be bigger than the UFC, must first deal with what he is not (perhaps) and that is bigger than the combat sports law.
Will they throw the book at him? Many say ‘no chance’. Will he get off with a slap on the wrist? Perhaps. Either way, once we know, it will just be another story for all of us to tell about Conor McGregor - the man whose career will always be defined as the ‘King of Headlines’.