The great circus sideshow that was Conor McGregor's detour into boxing is over, and UFC president Dana White could not be happier about it.
"I'm ready to get back to the UFC and do what I do," White said with a huge smile at the post-fight press conference in the early hours of the morning after the fight. "I'm not looking to do this again."
The truth of the matter is White has absolutely no say in the matter. And he knows it.
"It takes two very special people in the right place at the right time to do the freakish kind of numbers and the water-cooler talk, all the things that this fight had ... This s*** doesn't happen all the time," White said.
"I want to get back to business doing what I do, which is the UFC."
But nobody knows what the UFC even is anymore - including White.
It used to be so simple. The UFC was where the best fighters in the world duked it out to see which martial art was best. Once that was figured out - it turns out that mixing striking, wrestling and jiu jitsu together is the way to go - the game evolved into a straight-up battle for supremacy. Men, and eventually women, were sorted into weight classes and fought to see who was the best at their size.
Meritocracy was the bedrock principle from which the UFC built its hardcore fan base. Making the best fight the best was also how the UFC became a star-making machine because, unlike in boxing, the kings and queens of the organisation were constantly under siege by up and comers. Therefore, anyone who could hold onto a belt for a long time was unquestionably great, and greatness is one path to stardom.
The old UFC hit its pinnacle with Ronda Rousey, whose reign of unprecedented dominance came to an end just as uber talent agency WME-IMG stepped in and purchased the UFC for nearly $AUD5 billion.
The May 2016 sale rocked the UFC to its core. On the management side, the man working in the shadows behind White, the company's longtime match maker Joe Silva, announced his retirement. Worse still for the company as a whole, its stable of more than 500 contracted fighters all of a sudden knew exactly how much they were worth.
For years, the UFC paid its fighters next to nothing because there was nowhere else for fighters to go and because there was no way for the fighters to know if they were getting a good deal or not. Unlike the NFL or NBA, nobody knew what franchises were worth or even if the sport had a viable future.
As a result, the standard contracts for low-level fighters became what is called "5 & 5," "10 & 10" or "20 & 20," which means that the fighter is paid $US20,000 to show up on weight on fight day and another $20,000 if he or she wins. Even champions coming in from other organisations, like Eddie Alvarez, were paid next to nothing. His first contract with the UFC paid him a measly "70 & 70," according to MMA Junkie, a fact only revealed because his 2013 contract was part of a court case and thus became a public document. It is still the only full UFC contract to be made public.
The UFC's $AUD5 billion price tag has opened the eyes of its best fighters, who are starting to demand bigger pay days. McGregor is the prime example of this new trend, but others are learning from his example. Flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, has been fighting with White about money and marketing opportunities for months, and the UFC boss has retaliated by threatening to dissolve the entire division. Welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, meanwhile, said after his most recent fight, against Demian Maia, that he purposely fought conservatively because he was promised a super fight with Georges St-Pierre.
That fight may never happen because Michael Bisping, the middleweight champion, hasn't fought for nearly a year as he's waited for the announced, then cancelled, then re-announced gigantic GSP payday, which is finally set to go down at Madison Square Garden in November.
While those three divisions are in monetary chaos, more belts are in purgatory for entirely random reasons. The 35-year-old heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic is tied for the most title defences in the division's history, with two, but got his last three wins over a 40-year-old, a 37-year-old and a 33-year-old, Junior dos Santos, who recently failed an anti-doping test. Meanwhile, over in the light heavyweight division, Jon Jones' own anti-doping problems mean that the promotion's one-time glamour division is now headless. The women's featherweight division can only look on in envy seeing as it lacks bodies. Period. The UFC's own website only lists three female featherweights: champion Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino, the woman she defeated for the belt, Tonya Evinger, and Megan Anderson, who has never stepped inside the UFC cage.
In total, six of the UFC's 11 divisions are in complete flux because of either money issues or unpredictable twists of fate. That leaves just five divisions in relatively good shape, and even some of those have question marks hanging over them. Nobody knows when McGregor will return to the lightweight division, the bantamweights have been on hold for nearly a year as champion Cody Garbrandt deals with a mysterious back injury, and dominant female champions Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Amanda Nunes have had trouble turning their awe-inspiring skills into pay-per-view buys.
The UFC used to solve all these problems by turning the meritocracy knob to 11. That's how the torch was passed from generational stars like Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture to the likes of St-Pierre and Anderson Silva.
However, since the WME-IMG takeover, a new model has been adopted. Ridiculous mega fights are now the name of the game. WWE star CM Punk made his MMA debut at age 37 and was promptly bulldozed by a relative nobody at UFC 203. Bisping sidelined himself for a year in order to fight at Madison Square Garden against St-Pierre, who last fought in 2013 as a welterweight. Even Jon Jones, before he failed his USADA test and was stripped of the light heavyweight title, got in on the action by calling out Brock Lesnar, who is currently suspended for failing his own PED test.
The Jones-Lesnar fight that will now, in all likelihood, never happen is the ultimate expression of the new UFC. It would have been an economic boon for both fighters. Already highly paid by MMA standards, Jones and Lesnar could have marketed the fight as "MMA vs pro wrestling" just like McGregor and Mayweather played up "MMA vs Boxing". For good measure, Jones and Lesnar also could have thrown in cliche fighting storylines like "big (Lesnar) vs small (Jones)", and "white farmer vs cocky black athlete".
There is no doubt that Jones-Lesnar would have been a gigantic payday. It also would have been completely and utterly empty. Lesnar has been popped for steroids multiples times and has fought only once in the past five years. Jones, meanwhile, has his own PED problems and would have been ducking a fight with Alexander Gustafsson, the current no. 1 contender who battled Jones in 2013 in what many consider to be the greatest title fight of all time.
Despite the extremely problematic Jones-Lesnar fight and the variously broken weight classes, White swears that things are just like what they were in the good old days.
"The way that I look at fights, and the way that I look at fighting is that we're going to have fights that we put on that are for the UFC hardcore fans, we're going to have some fights that will do better than others. Then we'll have some fights that are big where we do the Diaz-Conor 1.5 million (pay-per-view buys)," White said shortly after Mayweather TKO'd McGregor.
Looking into the future, there is nothing to suggest that White can put on either type of fight.