“Clay’s bragging was a way to convince himself that he could do what he said he’d do. I never liked all his bragging. It took me a long time to understand who Clay was talking to. Clay was talking to Clay.” -Flloyd Patterson on Muhammad Ali
Conor McGregor asking “Press Conference? Press Conference?” the way Allen Iverson says “practice” is how I imagine the conversation with Dana White starting. “We ain’t here talking bout fighting. The fight game I risk my life for. We ain’t here talking bout cheques. We here talking bout PRESS CONFERENCES?!?!” and this conversation would lead to a series of tweets and status updates that unfolded something like this:
Conor isn’t showing up for the UFC 200 Las Vegas press conference
Conor is pulled from UFC 200
Conor retires- this tweet explodes the internet taking layers out of the ozone
Nate Diaz makes sounds that may or may not be language
Conor wants to concentrate on training and not “handing out flyers” for the UFC like a promo puppet
Conor is not retired. Conor will be fighting at UFC 200
Nate Diaz is making sounds again. Maybe he’s hungry
Dana White will only confirm that Conor is actually back on the UFC 200 card once enough cameras are around
Dana White announces Conor is not on the UFC 200 card and the main event will be Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier
So there you have it. Conor is pulled from UFC 200 for missing a press conference and replaced by Jon Jones: a man who just finished fighting at UFC 197 12 seconds ago and is still on probation for hitting a pregnant women with his car and fleeing the scene. Because that’s fair right.
A player pulled from competition because of a missed media obligation would never happen in a league with a players union or in an organisation thats run like a business and not a fraternity.
Some people think Conor’s being egotistical and out of line for not fulfilling his job obligations. But let’s understand the parameters and conditions surrounding this ‘job’: It has no health benefits, no pension, no stability, no five year plan, no holiday pay, no overtime, and no guarantee you won’t die. It’s a job that guarantees head injuries, but unlike the NFL few people involved actually make enough to have a mortgage or even forgo a second job. There’s no NCAA Div 1 or Div 2 Mixed Martial Arts. This is not a system. There’s no draft. The UFC doesn’t give you a highly paid coach or gym to train in, its all on you. All of it. You don’t get paid to train. You don’t get paid to do press conferences.
When I went to see a Conor McGregor vs Jose Aldo press conference Dana White talked 80 percent of the time. It was clear that he wanted to be a celebrity so shamelessly he made Kim Kardashian look like Sia. Press conferences, especially with athletes, are ALWAYS forced. They’re like a first date, only generic things are said and none of it matters unless it leads to some good action.
But Conor did the promo show better than anyone. The suits, the aviators, the trash talk, calling Nate Diaz “the skinniest fan man I ever saw”. He won over fans and transcended the sport. But that’s when Conor was constructing Conor. Just like Cassius Clay, he was convincing the world and himself that he was the greatest. If he didn’t believe he could beat everybody,than nobody would. He was finding his footing not just as a UFC fighter, but as a personality, a celebrity, an icon, and all of his verbal sparring was punctuated with that one punch knockout against Aldo in an astonishing 13 second fight.
But then he lost.
And thats where the UFC and Dana fail to show reason and compassion. Being in the spotlight is an excruciating spectacle when you’re coming off a loss. Just ask Ronda. Or anyone whose ever lost anything ever. You want to disappear completely. You know words can’t change the past or alter the future. I’ve already heard Conor McGregor talk more than everyone in the NBA combined. Does Tony Parker have anything to say? Who knows. We don’t need to hear him discuss “pick et roll” because all that matters is that he carpe diem’s.
If you were Conor the only self preserving story you could tell yourself is that you lost because of your demanding schedule. That you didn’t prepare properly. You’d never concede it was because Nate was bigger, stronger or had more skill. That would ruin you. That’s the difference between a fighter and a regular civilian. The fighter is going to keep going through sheer will.
Conor had no choice but to put his head down and train like a maniac. He knows no amount of press, luck, or celebrity will help him in the cage against another man whose goal is to violently destroy him, everything he’s worked for and everything he can become.
This whole no-show at a press conference debacle could’ve been handled more professionally if Dana had just said “Sincerely apologise, Conor has come down with a cold and unable to make this press conference. We will keep you updated” and then had a conversation with Conor behind the scenes to see what was happening. No one would have interrogated either of them. But instead Dana took Conor’s no show personally. He’d acted like he had been stood up on a date and responded by aiming to hurt Conor. He was showing him who was boss in the stupidest possible “I don’t care if this is going to cost the company tons of money and piss off the fans even though no-one really cares if you miss a press conference” type of way. The world loves Conor. Would you even leave your drink around Dana White?
Conor McGregor can do whatever he wants. He can go into politics and run for office in Ireland. He can star in movies or reality TV shows. He can start a nutrition company. Unfortunately the only thing he can’t do right now is what he wants to do and was born to do: fight. Someone has to look into these UFC contracts and perhaps hire some dreaded L-Words: lawyers.
I hope Conor wins his next fight, whoever it’s against, whether its Nate Diaz, Dos Anjous, or the UFC for taking away that ten million dollar pay cheque. The fans are on your side.