Following his historic #UFC205 win, Conor McGregor immediately began his efforts to use his growing influence and success to shift the fighter-promoter balance of power.
And now, with more leverage to wield than any other fighter in history, McGregor may have just found a new niche, as evidenced by his cageside appearance last Saturday in Belfast.
Already commanding a wide array of privileges, including the sport’s biggest purses, a series of unpunished late arrivals at press conferences, and the ability to choose his own fights with near-impunity, the brash Irishman has always spoken of his own transition into the field of fight promotion. He looked a natural fit at the SSE Arena as SBG teammate Charlie Ward kicked off the card.
Storming the Octagon following #ArtemLobov's win over Teruto Ishihara, McGregor made a massive impact on the card, without even fighting. And, in lieu of fighting for the next six months, McGregor can still be beneficial to the UFC, attending events, promoting fight cards.
The exact workings of how to help McGregor evolve into the UFC's first fighter/promoter are impossible to know at this moment, but there are many paths for the UFC’s dual-division champion.
One strategy could see McGregor lending his name to the European wing of the UFC. He did, after all, make his first UFC appearance art a European card in Stockholm.
It seems an obvious fit; as an elite fighter with incredibly broad public reach and self-promotional abilities, McGregor would naturally seem best suited to promoting other fighters within his sport, from his region. Just look at how he helped usher teammate Lobov into the UFC through #TheUltimateFighter, or his endorsements of Ward and sparring partner, BJJ black belt, Dillon Danis.
McGregor has almost single-handedly created a generation of loyal followers and curious onlookers who wish to know more of this strange, wonderful sport. And if he vouches for a fighter, fight, or entire card, he can help attract many, many more eyeballs to any given UFC event.
Promoting regional-level bouts may seem narrow in scope for someone of McGregor’s magnitude, but his deep pride in his homeland and his stated desire to establish a global presence for Irish MMA may suggest that the potential rewards in the potential growth of combat sports in a country with deep pugilistic traditions.
Another option for McGregor is a foray into boxing promotion. His remarkable reach on social media and self-promotion can form a solid floor of potential, and there is also more room for upstart promotional entities to find a foothold. But given that McGregor's notorious rise has come inside the Octagon, it's highly unlikely that a McGregor/Mayweather bout materializes.
McGregor has always been that most dangerous of men; a pro-fighter idealist who believes in vocally affirming one’s value, yet also holds the power and hefty reach necessary to negotiate on equal terms with the UFC. And though McGregor jokes of “changing your bum life,” it has always seemed a point of pride for the "Notorious" that his opponents also receive large purses.
In the lead-up to his knockout of Eddie Alvarez, he openly taunted the American, seemingly frustrated with Alvarez’s willingness to accept the bout without renegotiating his contract. The idea of fair negotiations and equity splits for fighters has always appeared to be important to McGregor, both in his own case and in a broader sense, and how those ideals would interplay with the selfish business of fight promotion could be a primary talking point should his whims materialize.
And while the UFC’s featherweight and lightweight champion has stated his intention to sit out the next six months while preparing for the birth of his fist child, the future remains unclear. But make no mistake, there are many options for McGregor.
His potential is so great these days that he doesn't even need to fight to influence mixed martial arts.