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Conor McGregor’s rising profile might see him outgrow mixed martial arts and UFC

Conor McGregor has seen his stock rise significantly after his boxing match against Floyd Mayweather, and his ever-growing popularity may well eclipse the world of mixed martial arts and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

other sports Updated: Aug 31, 2017 15:12 IST
Sayan Ghosh
Sayan Ghosh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Conor McGregor,Floyd Mayweather Jr.,Ultimate Fighting Championship
Conor McGregor is on the path to becoming a crossover star too big for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). (AFP)

Conor McGregor and the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s (UFC) relationship has been quite symbiotic over the years.

Since his debut in 2013, Conor McGregor has enjoyed huge support from the company and in return, he has provided a number of big-money fights for the promotion.

In the last two years, he has established himself as the biggest name in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and his fights in both the lightweight and featherweight categories have generated massive revenue for UFC.

However, the Floyd Mayweather fight has turned the situation on its head. Conor McGregor went toe-to-toe with one of the all-time great boxers and although he lost the bout in nine rounds, it was a huge boost to his credibility and also his bank account.

Conor McGregor is currently in his prime and with a number of lucrative opportunities ahead of him, he is likely to become a monster that UFC will not be able to control.The indication was there in the post-match press conference itself as Conor McGregor declared that he is a ‘free agent’ and there is a good chance that his next fight will not be in an UFC ring.

“I have many options in MMA. I’m sure there are options that will present themselves in the boxing game. Right now, I’m a free agent. My name is on the ring,” McGregor told the media.

In the past, Conor McGregor has tried to use his stardom to dictate UFC’s decisions and he was quite successful in most of these negotiations. With the decline of big names like Jon Jones and Ronda Rousey, McGregor is the biggest crowd-puller in the company right now and he has used that fact to his advantage.

In 2016, UFC announced that he will be defending his lightweight belt after the bout against Nate Diaz in UFC 202. However, that did not turn out to be the case.

Instead, Conor McGregor went on to defeat lightweight titleholder Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 to become the first fighter to hold two UFC belts at the same time. It has been almost a year since that fight and McGregor has still not defended either of those belts.

This has sparked a lot of outrage among fellow fighters and even if UFC decides to strip Conor McGregor of the belts, it will be a huge blow to their interests.

The other issue for UFC is Conor McGregor’s long-time demand for ownership stakes. After his victory over Eddie Alvarez, McGregor made it clear that he wants to own a part of the business and he has no qualms when it comes to keeping the championship belts hostage to get what he wants.

“You want me to come around, stick around and continue to push? Bring me on board for real. Not just as this. I need to be set for life for this. If you want me to be truly in on this then I need to be all in on this. Proper. That’s a stake in the company,” McGregor told the media following his UFC 205 victory.

The prospect of a fighter owning stakes in the company would have been quite impossible a couple of years ago, but the meteoric rise of Conor McGregor has changed the game.

The Irishman is aware of his importance to the company and with the Floyd Mayweather fight under his belt, Conor McGregor will likely become a beast too big even for Dana White and his juggernaut.

First Published: Aug 31, 2017 15:12 IST