It’s often said that boxers never retire – they just get old. History is full of fighters who boxed on well beyond their best years, and even Muhammad Ali wasn’t able to resist the temptation to put the gloves on one or two times too many and climb back in the ring. Between these repeated ‘last ever’ bouts, boxers tend to retire. Even then, they tend to only reverse their retirement once or twice before calling it quits for good, and by that time, they’re either in their late 30s or early 40s. Conor McGregor is coming out of retirement for the third time to fight in January 2021, and he’s still only 32.
UFC is not boxing, and we shouldn’t pretend that it is. They’re both combat sports, and they both present a very real risk of somebody getting badly hurt, but they’re not identical. There isn’t a precedent for people retiring and then coming back to mixed martial arts repeatedly because it generally doesn’t happen. The sport hasn’t been around in the public eye for long enough for such patterns to be picked up on. Even if it had been, there’s no other MMA fighter anything like Conor McGregor. Before he came along, UFC coverage was dominated by big heavyweights like Brock Lesnar. Nobody cares about the big guys anymore. It’s all about fights between men McGregor’s size, and McGregor has made it that way.
While he has his fans – and millions of them – not everyone admires the way McGregor conducts business. He behaves almost like a WWE wrestler, trash-talking his opponents and conducting ‘larger than life’ press conferences almost as if he were playing a character. He throws his money around, repeatedly gets into trouble outside the cage, and walks away from the sport every time he has even the most minor disagreement with either Dana White or somebody else who incurs his displeasure. His supporters, though, would say that such behavior is all part of his appeal. You never know what you’re going to get next from the fighting Irishman. He could book a boxing match against a celebrity, get back in the cage, or run for President. Nothing, at this stage, would surprise us.
Given the high costs involved in booking him for a fight and the trouble that comes along with it, some people might wonder why Dana White persists in persuading McGregor to return to UFC. The answer is that he makes more than he costs, and we don’t just mean pay-per-view buys. The “UFC” series of fighting games would probably never have become popular were it not for McGregor building interest in the sport. There wouldn’t be a game called ‘MMA Legends’ making big money at online slots websites if it weren’t for McGregor either.
Perhaps there’s no metaphor for the way Conor McGregor operates than the games you’ll find at an online slots website like CloverCasino.com. You never know what you’re going to get until you pay for it, you may not like the result when it arrives, but you’re still entertained even if you don’t get what you thought you were buying. If McGregor really is an online slots game, he’s the one with the biggest jackpot in the world – and the casino has officially reopened.
It says a lot about McGregor’s appeal that so many people are excited about his return, they haven’t thought to question his choice of opponent. The “Notorious” one won’t be breaking any new ground when he steps into the cage at UFC 257 on January 23rd next year. Instead, he’ll be standing across the ring from “Diamond” Dustin Poirier – a man who he’s already beaten once, six years ago. It wasn’t one of the most challenging nights of McGregor’s career. He beat the Louisiana native in under two minutes by way of referee stoppage, and there was little sign then that Poirier was capable of mounting a serious challenge even if he hadn’t fallen victim to an early flurry of punches. Poirier is an older, wiser fighter now – but he still isn’t anywhere close to the top of the tree in terms of who UFC fans would ideally like to see McGregor fight.
The fight that fans would truly like to see is McGregor in a rematch against Khabib Nurmagomedov, renewing the bitter hostilities between the two men from 2018 and providing McGregor with a chance to settle the score from his highest-profile defeat the first time around, but that now appears to be impossible. Nurmagomedov is retired, and unlike McGregor, he plans to stay that way. He made a promise never to fight without his father by his side, and now his father has passed away, he has no intention of returning to the cage. Even if he did, he’d have nothing to gain from taking the fight. Nurmagomodev retired at the age of 32, undefeated, and beat McGregor convincingly in their one previous encounter. He has no need to put that perfect record on the line and nothing to prove.
Perhaps this is where McGregor is in terms of his career now. Having one fight per year doesn’t qualify him as an ‘active’ fighter, and he no longer appears to have any aspirations of chasing championship gold. He likes to dip his toes in once in a while to keep his name in the mix and get himself paid, and he’ll indulge in the occasional celebrity scuffle in order to generate publicity. Right now, that scuffle appears to be with YouTube star and sometimes-boxer Jake Paul, brother of the equally infamous Paul. A match of some kind – possibly one in a boxing ring – seems to be an inevitability in the future. It’s even conceivable that this latest comeback to the UFC ring is an attempt to garner further publicity for his ambitions and projects outside it. Whatever the real reason for his comeback, though, and whatever interests he may or might not have outside the cage, UFC’s most famous son is back in the cage for at least one more fight. The circus is back in town, and we’re all invited to come along and watch the show. After it ends, don’t be surprised if “Notorious” retires for a fourth time.