The 27-year-old appeared to announce his retirement from the sport just a few months ahead of his scheduled rematch with Nate Diaz at UFC 200, with fan reactions ranging from utter despair to pure cynicism.
But is he really retiring? Let’s take a look at the evidence…
Exhibit A – McGregor’s tweet
A lot of the coverage has stated that McGregor “hinted at” retirement in this tweet, when in fact he seems to state it outright. He does say though that he’s decided to “retire young”, not that he’s decided to retire – there’s enough wriggle room there, because, at 27, he could go on for a few years yet and still be young in fighting terms.
Plus, let’s be honest – this is Conor McGregor. If anyone knows how to get headlines, it’s him. We’re not seeing this as conclusive by any stretch of the imagination.
Exhibit B – Dana White’s statement
After McGregor’s tweet, UFC supremo Dana White stated that he has in fact pulled the Irish fighter from UFC 200 because he was refusing to do the pre-fight publicity. It seems McGregor wanted to stay in Iceland to continue training for his rematch with Diaz, while White insisted he head to Las Vegas for a new conference to coincide with UFC 197 this weekend. According to White, McGregor’s tweet was a response to that demand. It all smacks a bit of: “‘You’re fired!’ ‘Well, you can’t fire me because I quit!’”
White also said: “Is Conor McGregor retiring? Only he could answer that question.” So it seems he doesn’t know any more than we do. But it seems pretty likely that whatever’s going on, this dispute between McGregor and UFC management is at the heart of it.
Exhibit C – McGregor’s coach
McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh followed suit with a tweet of his own which also seemed to hint at the 27-year-old’s retirement. But then you’d expect a fighter’s coach to have his back, wouldn’t you? Then there was this from Diaz.
Is there anyone who isn’t retiring? In fact, we’d like to take this opportunity to announce our retirement too, effective as of the end of this article.
Exhibit D – McGregor’s Twitter follows
The most prevalent theory online is that, if McGregor is indeed leaving UFC, he’s heading to WWE. And the fact that McGregor just followed a load of wrestlers on Twitter is adding fuel to that particular wildfire. Football fans will remember though that last January Barcelona supporters freaked out when Lionel Messi started following Chelsea on Instagram amid rumours he was unhappy at the Nou Camp. And you may have noticed Messi is not now a Chelsea player.
Exhibit E – The death of Joao Carvalho
McGregor was present to watch 28-year-old Joao Carvalho’s Total Extreme Fighting bout with Charlie Ward 10 days ago. Carvalho later died from the injuries he sustained in the fight. McGregor said afterwards: “To see a young man doing what he loves, competing for a chance at a better life, and then to have it taken away is truly heartbreaking… It is such a rare occurrence that I don’t know how to take this.”
In the wake of McGregor’s retirement tweet, some people are wondering if the event had more of an effect than we realised.
Whether or not the Diaz rematch happens, we’re pretty sure we haven’t seen the last of McGregor inside a UFC octagon. Both he and White know that they’re stronger together so we fully expect common sense – and, of course, cash – to win out.