UFC lose credibility for not taking any sort of action against Conor McGregor
When I sat down last Thursday to pen a piece about how Conor McGregor held all the cards in his prolonged negotiations with the UFC, I did not know that the Dubliner, and over a dozen of his friends, were flying on their way to New York to target new UFC Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The premise of my piece was simple: The UFC can strip McGregor of his Lightweight title for extended inactivity but his legacy in MMA will ultimately be defined by the fights that he's had and the mark that he leaves on the sport, and not by the belts that he may or may not carry.
A few hours after my piece went live, McGregor and his friends had stormed their way through the Barclays Center in Brooklyn where they carried out an attack on a bus carrying Nurmagomedov and a host of other UFC fighters.
A bus window was smashed. UFC Lightweight Michael Chiesa was pulled from a bout with Anthony Pettis because of facial lacerations. Flyweight Ray Borg was forced out of a fight against Brandon Moreno because of multiple corneal abrasions. And McGregor and SBG teammate Cian Cowley were both booked for a variety of offences by the NYPD and were sent to Brooklyn Criminal Court to face their charges.
McGregor will return for his hearing on June 14 after he was released on bail, but with the UFC at least, it looks like MMA's premier promotion has no immediate plans to take any action - legal or otherwise - against their most high profile star.
UFC President Dana White said after the bus incident at the UFC 223 media day that there was a mutual respect between the company and McGregor and added that the organisation has no immediate plans to take any legal action against him.
When asked if McGregor would fight again with the UFC later this year, White said that he did not know at this stage and added that he hadn't been thinking about him last week.
"I don't know. You can't ask me anything about Conor. I don't know. I don't know anything about Conor. I haven't thought about Conor. I haven't thought about it. There's nothing to think about this week except for this event."
Except White had been thinking about McGregor. In the immediate aftermath of the bus attack he said that the incident was 'the most disgusting thing that has ever happened in the history of the company' and that he can imagine that 'he’s going to be sued beyond belief'.
Except the UFC won't sue. The UFC won't even go as far as to suspend him.
The company had a chance to draw a line in the sand and demonstrate that they will not tolerate his behaviour but they whiffed, as they have done on so many occasions before.
McGregor's antics start with trying to throw a chair at Eddie Alvarez and cans of Monster Energy at Nate Diaz and his team, and somewhere along the line it escalates to him and his company running riot through a loading dock and throwing dollies at bus windows.
His behaviour has gone unchecked by the UFC where other fighters in the past have paid a heavier price for less.
When former Welterweight contender Paul Daley hit Josh Koscheck after the bell at UFC 113, White announced that Daley would be cut at the post-fight press conference a few hours later:
"He’s done. I don’t give a shit if he’s the best 170-pounder in the world. He’ll never come back here again. I don’t care if he fights in every show all over the world and becomes the best and everybody thinks he’s the pound-for-pound best in the world. He will never fight in the UFC ever again."
Daley has not fought on a company card since.
When Lightweight fighter Jason High shoved referee Kevin Mulhall following his TKO loss to Rafael Dos Anjos at UFC Fight Night 42, White said that he didn't even have to see the incident to make a decision on High's future with the company.
“I heard – I didn’t even see it – that he put his hands on a referee. Done,” White said. “You touched a referee. Done. Over. That’s worse than what (Paul) Daley did to (Josh) Koscheck.”
High never fought in the UFC again.
McGregor throwing a dolly at a bus was described by White as the most disgusting incident in UFC history - and yet - for a man who once cut a fighter without seeing the incident that prompted his dismissal - he stood there before the world's media after UFC 223 and talked about the 'mutual respect' between him and the perpetrator of the bus attack, this, of course, after the UFC had already released their own footage of the incident on their YouTube channel.
McGregor attracts eyeballs. He owns four of the top five selling pay-per-views in UFC history and he is by some distance the biggest star the promotion has ever had, but financial strength and profitability cannot be used as justification to overlook a person's behaviour if your company and sport ever want to seek parity with the mainstream sports of the world.
When former Manchester United forward Eric Cantona scaled advertising boards and kung fu kicked a Crystal Palace fan, he was banned and fined by the Football Association, despite being one of the best players on a Manchester United team that were in the hunt for a league and cup double. Then FA Chairman Graham Kelly said that Cantona's kick was 'a stain on football'.
When NBA All-Star Metta World Peace entered the stands of The Palace at Auburn Hills and started trading punches with fans and other players, he was suspended for the rest of the NBA's regular season, plus any playoff games that his Indiana Pacers were scheduled to play.
He missed 86 games, the longest suspension for an on-court incident in NBA history. Former NBA commissioner David Stern said that the brawl was 'shocking, repulsive and inexcusable--a humiliation for everyone associated with the NBA'.
If the UFC ever want to be held in a regard where they are viewed as a legitimate sports organisation and not MMA's answer to the WWE, they need to punish poor behaviour, not overlook it.
As bad as Conor McGregor's latest antics are, we should remember that Big Boss Man once drove away with the coffin at Big Show's da's funeral and that was all quickly forgotten about.
— Simon O'Keeffe (@simontokeeffe) April 5, 2018
When former UFC Heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar returned to MMA to fight Mark Hunt at UFC 200 in July 2016, the UFC granted Lesnar an exemption to the normal UFC Anti-Doping Policy standards which states that a fighter coming out of retirement may not compete “until he/she has given UFC written notice of his/her intent to resume competing and has made him/herself available for Testing for a period of four months before returning to competition.”
The UFC announced Lesnar's return at UFC 199, just over one month before he fought Hunt at UFC 200. Three weeks later and Lesnar had tested positive for hydroxy-clomiphene, an estrogen blocker.
UFC 200 - with the addition of Lesnar - was the UFC's fifth highest selling pay-per-view of 2016. The top three pay-per-views of that year belonged to McGregor.
When a sports organisation makes a testing exemption for an athlete who then tests positive for an estrogen blocker - less than a week after his first fight back in the sport following four-and-a-half years in the WWE - you begin to lose credibility.
When the President of that same organisation stands there and talks about mutual respect between him and a fighter after that fighter throws a dolly through a bus window - you begin to lose credibility.
When that same President dismissed another fighter for pushing a referee without seeing the incident, and previously cut another fighter again for a punch after the bell, yet fails to cut, suspend or take any type of disciplinary action against a fighter facing 13 counts of menacing, four counts of assault (recklessly cause physical injury to another person), one count of attempted assault with intent to cause physical injury and one count of reckless endangerment - you've lost your credibility.
Forget you dude! Innocent bystanders , and UFC officials and staff I personally know and work with were put in a real danger today and some sent to hospital with real injuries! All because some thug! Forget you ! and your dumbass justification for this kind of behavior! https://t.co/8eZa4PgGmd
— #OnAmission4Gold (@KelvinGastelum) April 6, 2018
Connor McGregor: arrest him, sue him, suspend him, ban him, fire him. Put him out of business.
Let’s not support or aid to someone acting like a five year old with absolutely zero discipline and guidance.
— Kenda Swanson (@KendaPerez) April 5, 2018
I can’t believe Conor "Notorious" McGregor would be his peers lives in jeopardy without even thinking twice about it. Shame on him. https://t.co/iNdogyiimq
— Felice Herrig (@feliceherrig) April 6, 2018
Disgusting. We need to rid the sport of fools like this. Back to being a plumbers apprentice you go!
— Ricardo Lamas (@RicardoLamasMMA) April 5, 2018
The UFC may wait to see how McGregor fares in court before doling out any internal punishment but they've acted swiftly on lesser incidents in the past.
The company's $4.2 billion sale to WME-IMG in 2016 was initially viewed by some as a move that would solidify the company's mainstream status for decades to come, but less than two years later and the company is losing credibility seemingly at every turn as it demonstrates clear double standards between fighters, issues an increasing number of interim title fights to boost pay-per-view sales and offers its athletes a reported 15.6% of the company's revenue. By comparison, athletes in some U.S. major team sports receive 50 percent or more of the revenue in their respective sports.
The UFC were happy for Lesnar to return with an exemption to the normal UFC Anti-Doping Policy standards, and their President was happy to talk about the mutual respect between him and a fighter that invaded an arena and launched a dolly at a bus window, but are they happy with the image they have created for their brand, and by extension, their sport over the last two years?
MMA is not a cowboy sport, just a sport seemingly filled with cowboys.