UFC 200 was slated to be the biggest event in MMA history, but now the scheduled main event will not be happening.
Conor McGregor shocked the world of MMA on Tuesday by announcing his retirement. The UFC superstar tweeted from his personal account: “I have decided to retire young. Thanks for the cheese. Catch ya’s later.”
Many have questioned the validity of the tweet, and many more have their theories as to what could have been the motive for this decision at this stage of his career. One thing is certain – the highly anticipated rematch between McGregor and Nate Diaz, who defeated McGregor at UFC 196, will not be taking place.
UFC Commissioner Dana White has pulled the featherweight division champion, citing an unwillingness to attend pre-fight promotional events in Las Vegas. White’s comments suggest that McGregor may have known about the decision before taking to Twitter.
Regardless of how this situation concludes, it highlights a recurring problem that the UFC has: Main events often struggle to live up to the hype. Far too often fighters have to pull out of fights due to injuries suffered in training camp.
No, McGregor-Diaz 2 will not be happening at UFC 200. However, their first bout was never supposed to take place either. McGregor’s intention was to fight for the lightweight division title against champion Rafael Dos Anjos, but Dos Anjos suffered a broken foot weeks before the fight, leaving Diaz as his replacement.
It was the second instance in a year where McGregor fought a replacement in what would have been a title fight. His title fight against former featherweight division champion Jose Aldo at UFC 194 in December 2015 was supposed to occur at UFC 189, but Aldo had to pull out due to a rib injury. Chad Mendes was inserted in Aldo’s absence.
The buzz for the upcoming UFC 197 has also taken a hit. Jon “Bones” Jones, widely regarded as one of the sport’s best pound-for-pound fighters, was primed to return to the octagon after a year-long absence to reclaim his title of light heavyweight division champion. Jones was stripped of his title after a hit and run incident, and was to return to fight current champion Daniel Cormier who Jones defeated in his most recent title defense.
Like many of its predecessors, this UFC main event will not take place. Cormier suffered a pre-fight injury, rendering him incapable of defending his title. Ovince Saint Preux will now be fighting Jones at UFC 197 instead.
With lawsuits coming years after the fact in leagues like the NFL one has to wonder…is the late replacement model a sustainable one for the UFC? There is obvious danger in sending out a fighter without a proper training camp.
The issue of safety, coupled with the potential loss of McGregor, has put the UFC at a cross-roads. Not only has McGregor been one of the greatest fighters the sport has seen, but also its best promoter.
Can the UFC continue to grow despite an inability to guarantee the best and most desired fights in addition to the safety concerns of a violent sport?
Right now it certainly seems like a struggle.
Matt Zeigafuse is a communication studies major from Phillips- burg, N.J. He can be reached at matthew. firstname.lastname@example.org. edu or on Twitter @MattZeigafuse.