The saga began with a tweet. And it didn’t end until Conor McGregor, the UFC’s biggest star, was yanked from the marquee of the promotion’s bicentennial extravaganza.
“I have decided to retire young,” McGregor wrote on Twitter in April. “Thanks for the cheese. Catch ya’s later.”
Only the “Notorious” one wasn’t truly calling it quits, as he admitted to GQ in a recent interview. He was merely trying to gain some leverage with the UFC.
"I was never really retired," McGregor said. "That was more just a negotiation type thing. It was a little bit of a joke, to be honest. And then it just blew the f--k up.”
McGregor ultimately declined to fulfill all the promotional duties required of him before his proposed rematch with Nate Diaz at UFC 200. UFC brass didn’t blink, however, and the card moved forward without its biggest name. Instead, McGregor will face Diaz in the main event of UFC 202 (current odds) on Saturday.
"People spend a lot of money to come see me fight from my hometown, and they had already purchased tickets, so I wanted to get back on that card. They weren't having it. They didn't put me in the card—that's okay—and the card bombed,” McGregor said. “I was ringside. The fights weren't great, but now here we are.”
While ratings estimates for the card have not been released, UFC 200 would be hard pressed to top UFC 196 — McGregor’s first meeting with Diaz — which reportedly did in the neighborhood of 1.5 million pay-per-view buys. It didn’t help that the card lost its second choice as headliner when Jon Jones was pulled from his bout with Daniel Cormier for failing an out-of-competition drug test.
McGregor claims to be happy with the way things turned out. Ahead of UFC 202, his burden has been shared by Diaz, who has made more high-profile media appearances than ever before in the wake of his upset victory.
"If you don't put your foot down, it can drag you left and right,” McGregor said. “Now my opponent is getting dragged left and right, so I'm happy about that. I've done enough. I'm chilling here. Everything's on my clock now.”