There is a civil war happening. No, not THAT civil war. This one is happening in the UFC, but trust me the heroes involved are just as big. Plus, you know, the whole fact that they're actually real, too.
The civil war happened thanks to the tweet that was read around the world. The person that pulled that trigger? Conor McGregor. It started when McGregor tweeted that he was "retiring young."
The rest of the day was a flurry of reactions, theories, rumors and just overall "WTFs." That evening, UFC President Dana White went on ESPN's "SportsCenter" to draw the company line. He called McGregor's bluff and stated that the fighter didn't want to participate in the necessary promotional duties that were required of him to promote UFC 200. In the end, White pulled McGregor from the card.
"Conor didn't want to come to Las Vegas and be part of any promotional training. He's in Iceland training. He felt leaving right now would hurt his training. But every other fighter on the card is coming. It doesn't make you exempt. We spend a lot of money on this stuff ... Is Conor McGregor retiring? Only he can answer that question. I don't know. But he will not be a part of UFC 200."
Boom! I guess the line in the sand has been drawn? The next move would belong to McGregor. According to White, the UFC and McGregor were still on good terms and UFC 200 could still be fixed, as long as McGregor hopped on a plane and did what he was contractually obligated to do.
No surprises here, but the outspoken Irishman saw the UFC's line in the sand and raised them. McGregor took to his Facebook page to release a statement explaining his position.
"I am just trying to do my job and fight here. I am paid to fight. I am not yet paid to promote. I have become lost in the game of promotion and forgot about the art of fighting," McGregor wrote. "50 world tours, 200 press conferences, 1 million interviews, 2 million photo shoots, and at the end of it all I'm left looking down the barrel of a lens, staring defeat in the face, thinking of nothing but my incorrect fight preparation. And the many distractions that led to this."
According to McGregor, the UFC spent some serious money to promote UFC 200, yet he tripled the promotion with his one "retirement" tweet.
"There had been $10 million allocated for the promotion of this event is what they told me," McGregor continued. "So as a gesture of good will, I went and not only saved that $10 million in promotion money, I then went and tripled it for them."
McGregor stands by the belief that he's already done his fair share for the company and doesn't feel like he needs to add anything more.
"I feel the $400 million I have generated for the company in my last three events, all inside 8 months, is enough to get me this slight leeway," he wrote. He also made it abundantly clear that he was still ready to go, "I am still ready to go for UFC 200. I will offer, like I already did, to fly to New York for the big press conference that was scheduled, and then I will go back into training. With no distractions."
At the end, he made sure to clear up the whole retirement thing:
It wouldn't be McGregor if he didn't add a little button to that statement, a few hours later, McGregor took to Twitter to add this:
So what was White's move going to be? Simple. Hold the company line. After McGregor made his statement, White pulled the entire fight from the card and subsequently scheduled the long-awaited rematch between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier in its place.
Clearly, the UFC wasn't going to kowtow to its biggest star and needed to yank back on the long leash that they've given him over the years.
But what about everyone else? How do all of the other fighters feel about McGregor's antics? The reactions in the media have been fast and passionate. Fighters are taking sides, so let's take a look at the teams. First up:
Jones is no idiot when it comes to being in the spotlight. There's rarely a day that the 22-1 interim UFC light heavyweight champion isn't in the news. Whether it be for his victories in the Octagon, or his antics outside of it. If anyone is going to understand what McGregor is trying to do, it's Jones.
"They're really grueling," Jones recently said of media events. "And it can be distracting at times. You're talking about your fight. Your opponent is listening to your interviews, understanding your psychology. A lot of things, you want to try to keep yourself mysterious, because the more interviews you do, you're giving out your psychology. You're being asked a lot of the same questions. Your workout schedule is altered. Your eating patterns become altered. You feel sidetracked from why you're actually there."
Let's face facts, though. Not every fighter is doing the level of press that comes with being the face of the sport. Fighters like McGregor and Ronda Rousey have more responsibility than just getting people to "tune-in." They're ambassadors between the sport itself and the mainstream. That kind of responsibility can be hard on a person, especially when you're trying to focus on what's important: fighting. If you need proof, both of the current faces of the UFC (and MMA in general) suffered devastating losses.
Was it because of the heavy amount of promotion?
"[McGregor] and Ronda Rousey, they do a lot of media. So, I don't know how he's feeling. Maybe it's a little too much. At the same time, we get paid millions and millions of dollars to show up. Today, I have media for an hour, then I have maybe another hour later. I mean, when you think about how much you're working compared to how much you're getting paid, we have a great job. So, you know, there's pros and cons, and I understand his feelings, but at the same time, we do have a great job that pays us really well."
No. 1 UFC welterweight contender Rory MacDonald was quick to stand by McGregor's side. He also raised an interesting point that might of gotten lost in McGregor's long statement: What exactly is a fighter's worth?
There was a time when fighters were chasing the $800,000 payouts of Anderson Silva. Nowadays that dollar amount looks paltry compared to the million-dollar payout McGregor received for LOSING at UFC 197.
Those types of payouts come at a cost, though. Think of it like this: the more promotion, the more people tune in, the bigger the par-per-view dollars are and, finally, the bigger the payout. The problem with that equation, as McGregor pointed out, the more you're out promoting, the less you're training. Being ill prepared to step into the Octagon could result in losses or, even worse, serious injury.
MacDonald took to Twitter to call this out and ask fighters to rally and stand united.
MMA legend and two-time UFC tournament winner, Don Frye wasted no time jumping on Team McGregor.
"I think he's right. He's spot on. That takes too much god damn time away from, you're hired to be a fighter not to be an interview, interviewee," he told Submission Radio. "You've got things to do. When you're training for a fight it's a 24/7 job and if they've got you doing more interviews and promoting than they do fighting then you're not gonna last long, you're not gonna have a long career ... It all depends on the time spent in the gym."
Frye continued, "That's what Conor's trying to tell them ... [Diaz] is a really good fighter and then he comes in with phenomenal conditioning. Crimey how do you combat that when you're flying around doing a bunch of interviews, more interviews than you do training. You're just setting yourself up for an ass-kicking."
Frye also took the opportunity to take a swipe at Dana White. This isn't the first time that the light heavyweight has taken shots at White. In 2012, the two of them got into a little Twitter beef that ended with White calling Frye a "f#@king crybaby."
This time, though, there might be some truth to Frye's comments should you decide to hop aboard Team McGregor. According to Frye, this is nothing more than two giant egos going to war.
"How do I say this without being rude? I guess I can't, so piss on it. Dana likes everything his way and if he doesn't get his way he throws a fit and that's what's happening. Conor's spot on. You can't spend more time doing interviews than training. This is a dangerous sport, OK? The thing is, it went from a fight, to a sport, to a TV show and it's still a dangerous thing so you got to prepare yourself for it because shit, just training, if you're in one of those fights and you're not hurt, you don't get hurt, it still takes two weeks to recover because of all the hard training. But if you're not training, you're gonna get hurt."
White has been pretty adamant in the media that he has done everything in his power to work with McGregor, but the featherweight champ was unwilling to compromise. He's been so adamant that you have to wonder: "Doth protest too much, me thinks."
This current UFC middleweight fighter kept his response short and sweet, quickly taking to Twitter to, not only back McGregor, but declare his awe of him.
Big words from the former Special Forces Army Ranger, Bronze Star Medal with V Device winner and current active National Guardsman.
The former champion knows about loss. Not only did lose his title, but he's been slowly slipping down the rankings. His last fight, against No. 6 lightweight competitor Edson Barbosa, ended in an unanimous decision in favor of Barboza, making it Pettis' third loss in a row.
"Coming off a loss, I know how he feels, Pettis said at a recent press event. "He wants to spend his time training. I think this right here is what made Conor McGregor Conor McGregor, but at the same his fight skills back it up. He can talk well, he had to train his butt off to get where he's at. And coming off a loss he's looking for that lifeline again, and the closest lifeline to him is his coaches, that's what you turn to first. Coaches are gonna say, 'forget all this, let's get back to what got you there. And that's what he's thinking about, forget all this. That's what I would think, that's what I was told when I lost my belt. Forget about everything else and let's get back to the gym. Let's get back to the basics and get to what got you to that position. And that was just hard work in the gym."
While Pettis might understand where McGregor is coming from, he does point out that it's part of the deal that everyone makes when they become a fighter. "It's not like they're requiring unrealistic things, it's all normal stuff. All of us athletes, all of us fighters we do it. We plan for it."
On that note, let's take a look at the other side of things.
Current UFC bantamweight champion Miesha Tate was longing to hold the belt for years. After a couple attempts to take it from former champ Ronda Rousey, Tate finally achieved her goal when she took down Holly Holm at UFC 196.
Now that she's at the top, there's no way she's going to bite the hand that feeds her, Dana White. Tate will be defending her title for the first time against No. 4-ranked Amanda Nunes at UFC 200, and was on hand at the recent Las Vegas press conference to promote the event. You know, the one McGregor was supposed to show up to. She spoke to ESPN about McGregor.
"I understand that he has an obsession with beating Nate right now and he wants to stay focused and stay the course at all costs. I get it. But at the end of the day, it says in your contract when you sign that you have to do reasonable promotion. This is reasonable promotion."
Tate would know a little something about contracts. Just weeks prior to attending the press conference, Tate re-signed with the UFC. In every contract there is a promotion clause that states that promotion shall be "reasonable." But what does that mean? I guess it depends on each fighter. For Tate, she has never been asked to do something that she wouldn't do.
"I have never had the UFC ask me to do unreasonable promotion. And they're very accommodating. Whether it's a car service to take you to where you need to train while you're travelling. Whatever they can do to make your life easier, bringing breakfast to you, bringing lunch to you, whatever you need they're really accommodating. They try to make this as easy [as possible]. We're three months out from the fight you know. It's not unreasonable to ask to come in here for a day and give some promotion. This does huge things for the fight."
Tate continued, riding the company line that promotion is what makes the fight bigger, which makes the pay days bigger for everyone involved. When a fighter skirts on his or her responsibilities, not only are pay days affected, but the work others have to do to fill in becomes more, as Tate pointed out:
"They filmed the commercial the other day. and we actually ended up having to pick up the pieces of Conor not being there. We had to film more. I had to actually come back and push my training schedule to the side and scoot my stuff around to be able to accommodate the fact that Conor wasn't there and fill up those voids."
It's this animosity that drives fighters to side with Dana White and the UFC. Whether he meant to or not, McGregor's decisions affected Tate's life and, in the end, will probably affect her paycheck, too.
That animosity couldn't be expressed better than by former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, who sided with the UFC easily for one simple reason: He's doing media, so why shouldn't everyone else?
"Can I see his side? No, not really. I'm doing it," Velasquez recently told reporters. "Everybody else is doing it. If he had to do way more than what we had to do, OK then, yes. I could definitely see that. But if he's not, if he's doing the same thing, then no. We're all doing it."
Velasquez didn't always feel that way. He's admitted that in the beginning he was naive about how things worked being a fighter. "When I first started to fight, I thought it was just training and fighting and that was it," said Velasquez. Things eventually changed when he was told there was more that was demanded of him. "'OK, you've gotta do interviews.' [I was like,] 'What?' Doing it now, yeah I'm kind of comfortable with doing it. I can do it pretty easily, I feel like. I feel like it is part of the job. You've gotta do this and train and fight."
What it boils down to is fairness for those who side with Team White. It's the age old adage, "I'm doing it, why doesn't he have to do it?"
"Again, that's not fair to the other fighters I would say, also," Velasquez said. "But me personally, I don't care. You came, you didn't come. If he fights on the card, if he doesn't, I'm just happy to be back. That's it."
It's no surprise that the former UFC featherweight champion would side with the UFC. Aldo lost his belt to McGregor at UFC 194 in spectacular fashion. McGregor knocked him out 13 seconds into the fight. Aldo has yet to get a chance to reclaim his belt due to the fact that McGregor left the division for his whole "total belt domination" thing.
Whether or not Aldo agrees with McGregor, it's safe to say, just out of spite, he wouldn't be too quick to support him. While promoting his upcoming fight with Frankie Edgar at UFC 200, he had this to say to ESPN.
Aldo's fight with Edgar will be for an interim title belt with the expectation that McGregor's next fight will be to unify the title. Whether or not that will ever happen is left in the dark. Until then, expect Aldo to stay true to the UFC and Dana White.
Also taking the side of Jose Aldo and the UFC is fellow featherweight Frankie Edgar. Edgar has long been chomping at the bits to get a chance at the title, but has always seemed to find himself "odd man out."
Now, Edgar is making his move and might have a direct line to hopping in the Octagon with McGregor. With that on the line, it's hardly time for Edgar to stand up and side with McGregor.
"I'm not doing the level of promotion that he's doing, to be honest, but he kind of brought that on himself," Edgar said while promoting UFC 200. "You know, that's why he is where he is and why he makes the money he makes, because he does promote so well. He promotes better than anybody."
Edgar calls McGregor's motivations into question. McGregor is coming off a big loss and not just any loss, either. The fight with Diaz was going to be the start of something big, something McGregor was trying to do, but it barely got off the ground before it was stomped on by Diaz. Suffice to say, McGregor's ego took a loss too.
At No. 6 in the UFC lightweight rankings, Donald Cerrone is one of the UFC's busiest fighters. The man never says no to a fight and even if he has one lined up, he's looking to get another one on the books. Cerrone has consistently fought four times a year since 2013 and knows the promotion game, which is why it boggles his mind that McGregor doesn't want to play the game.
“They’re talking upwards of $8 (million), $9 million dollars he’s throwing away," Cerrone told reporters. "I would literally ride a rocket ship to the moon for six months for $10 million to do a press conference.”
“Our job is to entertain,” Cerrone continued. “That’s what we do; it’s part of the job. When you sign on the ‘X,’ I have to do all the media obligations for Ottawa (at UFC Fight Night 89). You think I want to? It’s just part of the job. It’s what we have to do.”
A sentiment that is shared with MMA legend Wanderlei Silva, who simply told TMZ: "The promotion is part of the deal, and you need to be professional."
Whichever team you decide to side with, you can obviously see that there are good arguments for each. It's also fair to say that McGregor is trying to do something that could, in the end, benefit every fighter. It's never easiest for the first person to take a stand. Sure, it would be a little easier if he didn't do it in the same way a toddler throws a tantrum when they don't get their way, but hey, to each their own.
Let's not forget about McGregor's biggest victim here, Nate Diaz.
Obviously, there's no way Diaz would ever side with McGregor, but he's not exactly hopping on White's side either. Diaz said the thing that probably best sums up this whole Civil War:
What about you?