The UFC may have played the last ace in their hand with the Bisping vs GSP mega-fight. The pay-per-view game has always relied on a couple of huge stars rather than a steady pack of reliable talent, banking on a select few to rake in an enormous number of buys. This poses a problem for Dana White and the UFC, who have lost almost all of their biggest PPV draws in recent years.
Ronda Rousey, the former queen of the UFC, seems ready to move on; Jon Jones, arguably the greatest of all time, has squandered what was probably his final shot at redemption; Brock Lesnar, the ultimate crossover star, is unlikely to ever return; and Anderson Silva, a legend of the sport, is well past his prime. Only one name remains for the UFC — Conor McGregor.
As shrewd a businessman as he is a fighter, McGregor knows what he’s worth and he’ll settle for nothing less than his full value. He’s headlined four of the UFC’s top-five PPV events and reportedly made around $100 million against Floyd Mayweather in their boxing match back in August.
Now he’s returning to the UFC but he wants to do things a little differently. For starters, he’s demanding an ownership stake in the UFC and a co-promotion agreement. Like with the Mayweather vs McGregor superfight, which was co-promoted by McGregor Sports and Entertainment, McGregor wants a seat at the table and a larger slice of the pie.
Dana White seems convinced he can strike a deal with the new PPV king and still has his eyes set on a 2017 return. But now that McGregor has a taste for the lucrative world of boxing, it’s going to take a lot of money to lure him back. Let’s examine the odds on Notorious’ future.
With just two months left in the year, Dana White might be a little optimistic in hoping for a 2017 return. McGregor is threatening to walk unless he’s given a stake in the promotion, but granting him his wish could open up a can of worms for White and the UFC.
The UFC already has the rest of the year mapped out and there’s still a long way to go before a deal with McGregor is reached, so I wouldn’t be too hopeful for such a quick return.
Granting McGregor a stake in the UFC could set a dangerous precedent, prompting every other PPV star in the UFC to start demanding similar terms. Compared to boxing, MMA stars are wildly underpaid and the UFC would love to keep it that way.
Having said that, the UFC can’t afford to lose McGregor. No one drums up excitement like he does, and no one pulls numbers that come even close. After making enough money to retire a hundred times over, McGregor can afford to walk if his terms aren’t met. He currently has all the bargaining power, and there’s a good chance the UFC will bend to his will.
A fight against Tony Ferguson, the interim lightweight champion, is the fight that makes the most sense. After all, what’s the point of an interim title if it doesn’t garantuee a unification fight? El Cucuy is riding a ten-fight win streak and has dismantled some of the biggest names in the division. This is the fight that should happen.
The money fight, however, is McGregor vs Diaz 3. McGregor’s series with Nate Diaz holds two of the three top-selling events in UFC history. While Ferguson is more deserving of a title shot against McGregor, Diaz would be the bigger draw.
Featherweight champ Max Holloway is a long-odds contender to face McGregor next. The 25-year-old lost to Notorious back in 2013 but has won his last 11 fights since, claiming a title in the process. However, it’s unlikely McGregor will ever make the cut down to 145 pounds again and Holloway still isn’t a huge draw.
Then there’s Georges St-Pierre, who returns to the Octagon on Saturday after a long four-year layoff. This fight doesn’t make much sense except that people would definitely pay to see it. If the fight were to happen, they would probably have to agree to meet at welterweight (170 pounds) a weigh-class McGregor has never fought at before. Still, since the purse would be massive, you can’t rule it out.
Conor McGregor has been clear about his financial ambitions: “That’s what my goal is right now – number one, highest-paid athlete Forbes 2018, make my way towards the billion-dollar mark, and then continue to go.”
In order to top the Forbes list, he’ll have to dethrone Cristiano Ronaldo, who raked in $88 million in 2016. If McGregor strikes a huge deal with the UFC and makes another lucrative crossover to boxing in 2018, he has a shot at achieving his goal, albeit a slim one. Ronaldo is swimming in endorsement deals and recently signed a contract extension with Real Madrid which guarantees him upward of $50 million every year until his 36th birthday. He’s also sealed a lifetime deal with Nike worth over $1 billion.
Photo credit: Andrius Petrucenia (Wikimedia) CC License
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