As UFC President Dana White explained his defiant decision to hold UFC 200 without Conor McGregor, McGregor took to the internet to declare that it was he alone who generated $400 million for the company within the past year.
That’s a bold declaration without any definite proof, but then Conor can be forgiven for the audacity. He did launch himself into the MMA stratosphere via a combination of bold statements, big promises, and a lot of trash talking. What helped McGregor is that his words were typically backed up with decisive action — skilled punches that caused record-breaking knockouts.
Was Jose Aldo a fluke? Perhaps, but history will still remember that 13-second K.O. at UFC 194.
There’s no point in arguing against the fact that Conor McGregor generates a lot of attention. His antics overshadowed UFC 197 to such a degree there’s hardly any post-event discussion on the internet. Compare comment sections discussing the implosion of the UFC 200 fight card to the post-UFC 197 reaction, and there is a noticeable lack of interest in Saturday’s event.
This controversy has everyone looking to July 9 while ignoring the fact that there are two other PPV events lined up before then. Will anyone care about them? Certainly not casual, almost WWE-friendly fans who were drawn to the UFC by Conor McGregor and his trash talk. They’re utterly convinced that UFC is worthless without him, and that the company will fold if it doesn’t cave to Conor’s demands.
This perception isn’t accurate, but perhaps it wouldn’t exist at all if not for the willfully lopsided focus on Conor McGregor over the past year courtesy of his employers.
Dana White, as quoted by ESPN, was forced to admit that he’d given Conor McGregor special consideration and treatment.
“We gave Conor every opportunity in the world to get here, too. We get criticized a lot for bending too much for Conor, and we do. Conor is a guy who has stepped up and fought big fights on short notice, and I respect Conor very much as a fighter, and I like him, but you have to show up and do this stuff.”
White’s favoritism is proving to be the rope with which he’s currently hanging both himself and the UFC brand. It began inching around his neck when he unapologetically handed over Tate’s title shot to Holly Holm. It was common knowledge that Miesha was the No. 1 contender at the time. Holm was six spaces below her with a comparatively less-than-impressive UFC record before getting that fateful phone call.
Miesha even claimed she wasn’t even notified before the decision to give her spot on the UFC 193 card to Holm.
While many felt that Tate was obviously deserving of another crack at Ronda and the women’s bantamweight title, White dismissed these remarks by saying that no one was interested in a rematch. Miesha Tate was able to obtain her vital title shot only after Holly’s shocking derailment of Ronda’s undefeated streak. Tate’s the current women’s bantamweight champion, but should she lose the title to Amanda Nunes, both she and Holly Holm will both be sitting on the sidelines while Ronda Rousey gets the opportunity to fight the new champion. This is the kind of favoritism that Dana White has become infamous for.
It’s also the kind of behavior that breeds the entitlement Conor McGregor has proudly put on display. Additionally, this favoritism is why some fight fans are hardly sympathetic to the UFC’s current position.
When you go out of your way to cast the spotlight on a chosen few (while sweeping talented, aspiring fighters under the rug for the sake of your bottom line), it’s only a matter of time before you are forced to reap what you’ve sown.
Of course, at the end of the day, UFC is most concerned with making money. Perhaps that’s why McGregor keeps throwing out big numbers to emphasize his value as a fighter. It could be the threat of lost millions that causes the UFC to wave a white flag and return Conor to the UFC 200 main event.
Would caving also mean the UFC realizes Conor McGregor’s drawing power, and that the UFC needs him far more than he needs the UFC?
UFC 189 is considered one of the best and most satisfying PPV fighting events in recent history. Although Mendes vs. McGregor was the much-anticipated main event, the “Fight of the Night” award went to Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald. If you saw that fight as it happened, it’s no surprise.
This event stands out because it was a night of exciting fights and finishes that had nothing to do with Conor McGregor. Had he not fought Mendes, I doubt it would have taken away from what a stacked card it was. The ability to consistently deliver those kinds of PPV events is what will guide the UFC going forward, not Conor McGregor or his unique promotional capabilities.
Rather than blame Conor McGregor’s alleged ego or greed, I argue that it’s White’s favoritism and selective hyping that’s has done more harm to the UFC as a whole. Dana White is neither Don King nor Vince McMahon, and he should probably stop trying to get us to think otherwise. If fight fans know they will be entertained regardless of who’s in the main event, that’s drawing power in and of itself.
UFC 200 has the potential to be great regardless of a lack of big names. Having said that, I doubt the UFC will let the card crash and burn if it’s determined to stick to its guns over McGregor. Expect a surprise rabbit to be pulled out of the hat — even if that rabbit is ultimately Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz.
The takeaway from this week-long drama fest? Dana White needs to get to back to promoting the sport of MMA rather than borrowing so heavily from the WWE’s version of star-building. This type of storyline is something I’d expect to see leading up to Wrestlemania, not the landmark UFC 200.
Do you think the UFC can survive without Conor McGregor? Can Conor McGregor survive without the UFC? Share your thoughts below!
[Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]