After knocking out Jose Aldo in 13 seconds, no one it seems can stop Conor McGregor getting what we wants. Increasingly, that seems to be the case outside of the Octagon, too.
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Rumours have circulated around the MMA world that there has been some dissension between the divisive Irishman and the UFC. Rumours that only intensified in the immediate aftermath of his stunning victory at UFC 194.
Frank Fertitta III, who co-owns the brand with his brother, Lorenzo, was caught on camera reacting in intriguing fashion, appearing to slam down the UFC featherweight belt in frustration. It’s worth noting Frank did have a grin from ear to ear later on but McGregor’s post-fight interview with MMAFighting.com’s Ariel Helwani peaked even more intrigue.
McGregor claimed earlier this year he will soon be the first and only MMA fighter inked to a nine-figure contract. When asked if he felt he had earned that deal he said: “I feel so but we have sorted a deal already.”
Just a young kid from Ireland running the game. pic.twitter.com/VKy6TobIB8
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) December 15, 2015
Asked if that deal was outdated given his exploits last weekend he replied: “Maybe it is, maybe they want to offer me a new one.” And when cornered on the rumours of unrest with the UFC he simply said: “No. When you bring in a $10.1m gate, back-to-back MGM Grand records and the PPV numbers we have then times are good.”
Indeed, times are good for both the 27-year-old and the promotors but for an organisation that holds all the cards, always keeps a tight rein on its fighters and is notoriously secretive when it comes to their pay, are we about to see a shift in power?
It was foretelling that at his postfight press conference McGregor shimmied director of public relations Dave Sholler off the stage and held court on the podium by himself.
The Dubliner has had the courage to say and do many great things. Eight years ago, a young, pimplyfaced Irish former plumber said on video that he was coming to the UFC to be crowned champion and make more money than he knew what to do with. Now, the phrases “UFC champion” and “incredibly wealthy” are synonymous when people say the name Conor McGregor. And it’s clear what is next.
McGregor has Floyd Mayweather money territory on his mind. He speaks of his career like few fighters ever have and it’s not a belief, it’s a vow. That attitude is something the UFC president Dana White has never really dealt with.
If McGregor continues to grow in stature he may be in a position to wrestle control away from the UFC in a way it is not used to. But as history has shown MMA is an incredibly difficult sport to dominate because stars are so susceptible to falls. Just ask Ronda Rousey.
For now, though, McGregor has plenty of options and his remarkable rise in the sport has brought MMA to an entirely new demographic, ensuring even casual sports fans are well-aware of his exploits in the UFC. It means 2016 looks set to be a year of great prosperity for the brand.
You suspect McGregor, now the face of the sport, will be central to any further progress and negotiations for co-promotions and ninefigure contracts are things he said he seeks to do. Does that mean he’s positioned to make demands about revenue splits and gate receipts? Is he able to tell White there’s no way he won’t give up a belt if he moves up a weight class, and make it so?
“Maybe I can these days,” McGregor said with a smile. “Maybe I can.”
Fighting is where he is great. Control over his career, to the extent that he or any other fighter has, is derived from the money he generates by being great. But as Rousey showed an unexpected fall can see reality hit hard and should that happen he cedes that power.
While in the embryonic stage of his career, McGregor would be best placed to keep the promotors happy because everything can change in this sport, even in as little as 13 seconds.
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