What Conor McGregor is missing

Conor McGregor exits the Octagon after his fight against Nate Diaz. Photo / Getty Images.
Conor McGregor exits the Octagon after his fight against Nate Diaz. Photo / Getty Images.

It's the feud dividing the UFC.

Since Conor McGregor was axed by Dana White for UFC 200, mixed martial arts fans have been trying to decide - am I Team Conor or Team Dana?

Following McGregor's 649-word Facebook post on Friday morning, we've now heard both sides of the argument over the Irishman's refusal to fly to Las Vegas this week to fulfil promotional duties for the blockbuster event.

There's holes in both cases. So let's break down what McGregor and White are missing before attempting to find a way forward that pleases both parties - and most importantly, the fans.

WHAT CONOR IS MISSING

First things first, when McGregor wrote, "I am paid to fight. I am not yet paid to promote," he was either being incredibly naive - or intentionally misleading.

You don't get paid to fight if no one watches you fight. Trading blows with the media before trading blows with your opponent is part of the deal.

McGregor knows that.

McGregor's argument about needing "to prepare correctly this time" also doesn't completely stand up as an excuse for blowing off the Vegas press conference.

Only a fighter and his coach will know how important five days of training three months out from a fight can be to the end result. But let's not forget Diaz fought on 10 days' notice last time.

McGregor also has to take into consideration the increased importance of UFC 200. This isn't a normal pay-per-view event. The whole world is watching and there's pressure on the UFC to deliver a memorable night - and revenue numbers it can trumpet across the globe.

WHAT DANA IS MISSING

THE crux of White's argument is every fighter has to make themselves available to promote their fight - without exception.

The UFC has built its company on a one-rule-for-all approach. Everyone fights under the same conditions. Everyone wears Reebok. And everyone attends press conferences.

But surely there's a little wiggle room when it comes to the superstars that have transcended the sport, especially given the way the UFC has ridden McGregor - and Ronda Rousey - into the ground in the past 12 months.

White speaks glowingly about how often both superstars have saved the promotion by basically agreeing to be anywhere, anytime, but it's cost the duo dearly in their respective defeats against Nate Diaz and Holly Holm. "I have become lost in the game of promotion and forgot about the art of fighting," McGregor wrote.

For White, those defeats may have messed up some of the UFC's long-term plans but there was no serious damage. The show always goes on - and McGregor and Rousey's defeats created rematch storylines that were highly sellable.

But to the fighters those losses are far more than speed bumps, they're deeply personal - as highlighted by Rousey's revelation she had suicidal thoughts after getting knocked out by Holm.

A fighter's identity is tied to their performance in the Octagon. McGregor may have seemed calm and reflective after his defeat to Diaz but there's no doubt he was deeply affected by it - and now wants to do everything in his power to avoid feeling that way again. White has to understand that.

White's other key complaint - that "we're spending $10 million in promotion for UFC 200 and all that money is in motion" - was successfully countered by McGregor in his Facebook post when he wrote "as a gesture of good will, I went and not only saved that 10 million dollars in promotion money, I then went and tripled it for them. And all with one tweet".

White must understand the truth in this statement. There's no doubt the furore and worldwide public interest generated by McGregor's tweet is worth more to the promotion of UFC 200 then any commercial.

THE WAY FORWARD

THE UFC told MMA writer Dave Deibert "there will be no response (to McGregor's Facebook post today) but we look forward to discussing UFC 200 at our press conference (on Saturday)".

What should that response be? From a fight fan's perspective, the best solution is to bring McGregor back for UFC 200.

Some will argue it creates a dangerous precedent and a situation where every fighter is suddenly blowing off press conferences. That's unlikely - and really there's only a handful of fighters on the roster (maybe less) who can afford to pick and choose when they want to promote. The UFC still holds all the power.

So how does the promotion overcome McGregor's absence in Vegas? It might be a logistical nightmare but if the UFC is smart, why not write the UFC 200 commercial around the events of the past few days. Have some fun with it. Conor chose not to make himself available, so he can't complain if Nate Diaz is given a free swing at him in the ad.

From there, who cares if he's in Stockton or not? Let Diaz have that moment with his hometown to himself. McGregor is willing to fly to New York to complete the press tour. It might not be perfect, but having your number one star for a stop in the media capital of the world isn't the worst result.

Long-term, the UFC has unwittingly (or if you're a sceptic, by perfect design) created a dynamic which could help it sell more pay-per-views than it ever thought possible.

Remember when Stone Cold Steve Austin was outshining every other star on the WWE roster to such a degree in the late 1990s the only feud that made sense was pitting him against owner Vince McMahon?

The UFC should dive into this storyline headfirst. White is perhaps the only figure in the game that can talk as well as McGregor. As an authority figure, he is the perfect heel.

Developing McGregor as an anti-authority character will send his popularity soaring. Fuel the rumour he only deals with Lorenzo Fertitta. Have him give Dana the finger after his next fight. Fans will eat up - and both McGregor and White will be swimming in even more cash.

-News.com.au

- news.com.au

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