Heading into UFC 202 and the massive rematch between Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor next Saturday, a glimpse at the event page on ticketmaster.com might make for surprising viewing to some. When McGregor is top billing, the tickets normally do not last long before selling out. However, this time around things are very different. Using the “Buy on Map” portion of Ticketmaster’s site, which allows buyers to choose the seat they want, we can see the high number of unsold tickets, as is evident in the picture below. The grey dots denote purchased tickets, whereas the blue and purple dots represent unsold tickets and those available for resale respectively.
While many would speculate that this means McGregor’s drawing power has diminished in the face of his first UFC loss to Diaz in their first meeting, I think there are other factors at play here that explain the poor sales.
Ticket Expense: Make no mistake about it; these tickets are not cheap. Even tickets in the top tier of the T-Mobile arena cost in excess of $300, with prices steadily increasing the closer they get to the octagon. For fans in the immediate area, it may seem a better decision financially to either buy the pay-per-view and watch it at home, or pay a comparatively nominal fee to watch the event in a sports bar on a big screen. However, for Irish fans, things are tougher, as will be discussed below.
Irish Fans Stretched: When McGregor steps into the cage on Saturday, it will mark the 4th time in the last 13 months the Irishman has fought in Las Vegas. As someone who has travelled over to Vegas from Ireland for numerous fights in recent times, I know first-hand that the bank account takes a significant hit. I have been told by many fans here in Ireland that they want to go over to Vegas to support their hero, but the coffers are empty. Many Irish fans simply cannot afford the cost of travel (no direct flights from Ireland to Vegas mean multiple flights are required), hotel and spending money, and that is even before you take into account the already mentioned inflated ticket cost added on top of that. In addition, a number of fans also purchased tickets and booked all of the above to attend UFC 200 before McGregor’s well documented removal from that card. Many of those attended UFC 200 and International Fight Week anyway, but others incurred financial loss from cancelling the trip entirely. With this fight coming just over a month later, it simply is not an option for many of those fans either.
Other Sporting Events: This Summer, Ireland qualified for the 2016 European Championships in football (soccer) which took place across France in June and July. As always with Irish sports, the Irish team took a massive following with them. The team qualified past the group stages of the competition following a win over Italy, only to succumb to hosts and eventual runners-up France in next round. In total, Ireland played 4 matches in various locations in France. Football is not a cheap sport to attend either, and for many it was their big expense of the Summer. Another major sporting event currently ongoing is the Olympics, in which Ireland have a healthy contingent representing their country, particularly in boxing. As Ireland has quite a small population, the crossover in fans of different sports is high, so this could be another contributing factor in Irish fans not flocking to Vegas as we have grown accustomed to.
Expectations: With not being far removed from UFC 200 and the huge three-title-fight stacked card but together, UFC 202 on paper may not look nearly as strong a card to some. No title fights and two fighters on the main card making their UFC debuts has been a source of criticism from some. While UFC 200 was the exception rather than the rule, the fact that it is so fresh in the memory may have placed unrealistic expectations in the minds of many, and sales for UFC 202 may have suffered slightly as a result.
Also on expectations, is it possible that some of McGregor’s fans don’t expect the Irishman to emerge victorious? In the time since the first fight with Diaz, a lot has been said on the size difference between the two, as well as the fact that McGregor lost to Diaz, who took the fight on ultra-short notice, meaning he has a full camp this time around. Personally, I think that the first fight going the way it did adds even more intrigue to this fight, but I have spoken to others who do not feel the same, with the question “What is the point?” being commonly asked. While I do not believe this to be as big a factor as that of the expense of the trip, it certainly played a role for some.
The reality is that a number of factors are at play which have resulted in ticket sales for UFC 202 not performing as expected. For some fans, it may be a combination of many of these factors, or one such as they simply cannot afford to make the trip. With so many empty seats still to be filled for UFC 202, the question is; what will the arena look like come fight night?
Conor McGregor has ‘Every intention of fighting in 2018’
Despite being inactive since his historic boxing bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in August, Conor McGregor is never far from the headlines. Recently his out of cage antics have got people questioning if he’ll ever be back.
Thankfully the UFC lightweight champion appears to have cleared up any rumors about his fighting career.
Speaking to his sponsor Betsafe, the “Notorious” Conor McGregor said “My focus is getting back into the right ring or octagon. 2017 was historic. I have transcended both the sport of MMA and boxing. At this stage of my career, as it has been for the majority of my UFC career, potential opponents must lobby for fights with me. We could see Conor McGregor anywhere. I run the fight game, the fashion game, the whiskey game or whatever the next business endeavor might be”.
McGregor added, “I have every intention of fighting in 2018 if my compensation and business development endeavors accurately reflect my influence on combat sports.”
This comes just two weeks after UFC President Dana White told reporters “Conor might never fight again. The guy’s got $100 (expletive) million. I’ve got guys that made less than that and were lawyers and went to school their whole life and quit working.”
White went on to say “Try to get up and get punched in the face every day when you’ve got $100 million in the bank. Money changes everything with a lot of people.”
White also told reporters that the “Notorious one”, “can’t be paid enough money” and that he is “worth every penny and more.” McGregor’s recent statement suggests he knows that and won’t be back till his demands are met.
The UFC lightweight division has been stalled in the absence of the champion McGregor and now the interim champion Tony Ferguson has undergone surgery. The UFC has been known the remove belts from fighters who have been delayed for extended amounts of time, this would be highly unlikely with the popularity of McGregor.
Will Conor McGregor ever fight again?
The future of the UFC’s biggest ever star is in doubt. But it was also never a secret. “The Notorious” Conor McGregor always made his intentions clear, “Get in. Get rich. Get out”. And now he’s rich, very rich.
Get in. Get rich. Get out.
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) August 12, 2014
In 2008 at the age of 20 a baby-faced, clean-shaven McGregor stated his ambitions for his MMA career after just 5 professional fights. He said “My dream is to be world champion in the UFC, have more money than I know what to do with, and have a great life for my kids, my grandkids, everyone in my family, everyone that’s come up with me. That’s my dream”.
Along his journey, McGregor has never kept his intentions to himself. At first, it was to get into the UFC. Then it was the featherweight belt. Then it was to replicate what he had done in his previous promotion, to become the UFC’s first simultaneous two-weight world champion.
The issue now is that McGregor has achieved everything he has set out to do. From world titles to being a multi-millionaire, he’s done it all. And now there is no statement of intent. No dream to chase.
Since he’s achieved everything he said he ever wanted, where does the hunger for more come from? Currently, it doesn’t appear to be there.
Since the last time we saw McGregor with gloves on, the charismatic Irishman has seemingly gone off the rails. There was the Bellator 187 incident in Dublin, where McGregor stormed the cage and pushed veteran referee Marc Goddard and slapped an official. But more recently the Irish Daily Mail has reported that McGregor was involved in a bar fight in his native Crumlin, where he is believed to have punched an associate of a major crime gang in Dublin. Whether this is true or not, it is still something a UFC champion and role model shouldn’t be associated with.
From the outside, McGregor’s life is more about hours spent at the club rather than the gym.
But who can blame the man for enjoying the fruits of his labor? He is acting how most 29-year-old men would if they had just received $100 million.
This is his life’s work paying off.
After McGregor’s loss at UFC 196, he wanted an immediate rematch against Nate Diaz at the same weight. It showed us he’s a true martial artist with the heart of a lion. It showed his desperation to get that win back and prove he is the better competitor. And when he won, he proved all his doubters wrong as he walked on crutches through the corridor of the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas screaming “doubt me now”.
But after his loss to Mayweather Jr., there has seemingly been no desire to arrange a fight to get back in the win column.
It’s easy to forget during this period of inactivity that McGregor is one of the most active guys in MMA. From UFC 194 to UFC 205, McGregor competed in 4 fights at 3 different weight classes against high caliber opponents inside the space of 11 months. The truth is he deserves a well-earned rest.
However, in a recent media scrum, Dana White confirmed that Conor was looking to fight before the end of the year but had been pulled from UFC 219 as punishment for the incident at Bellator 187.
Dana also told the reporters in the room “Conor might never fight again. The guys got $100 million. I’ve got guys that made less than that and were lawyers and went to school their whole life and quit working”.
White also said, “Try and get up and get punched in the face every day when you’ve got $100 million in the bank”.
The two statements from Dana are very contradicting as he isn’t sure McGregor will ever fight again, but at the same time he wanted to fight on December 30th. Maybe Dana is struggling to pick apart the mind of Conor McGregor as much as we are.
There are plenty of reasons why Conor should never come back.
Not only is he set for life but he’s also healthy. McGregor is extremely conscious about his health and has mentioned several times throughout his career about the importance of keeping your brain healthy.
But there are plenty of reasons why he should he come back.
He loves to fight and he loves making money. He needs to capitalize on that whilst he can.
McGregor doesn’t have to settle for one big payday, he has matchups waiting for him such as Ferguson, Diaz, and GSP. There is always the welterweight belt and his Croke Park dream. And the door is open for a return to boxing, especially with fighters like De La Hoya, Pacquiao, and Malignaggi calling him out.
He’s also at the peak in terms of age and physique and in terms of power. Where he has the whole MMA world on strings with every small move he makes.
There is no knowing if McGregor will ever fight again. If McGregor returns to his usual self, he will likely be back in the first quarter of 2018, where he will fight frequently. But as time ticks on and there is no fight announcement McGregor may be stripped of his belt never to be seen again.
He got in. He got rich. Is he out? Let us know.
Manny Pacquiao Hints at Possible 2018 Fight with Conor McGregor
Here we go again. Just when we thought Conor McGregor was set on a return to the octagon, boxing legend Manny Pacquiao has seemingly called out the charismatic Irishman with his latest Instagram post.
It appears the current senator of the Philippines also wants a trip on the money train that is Conor McGregor, as he sent out this cryptic message on his Instagram.
The caption reads “Happy thanksgiving! Stay fit my friend. #realboxingmatch #2018 @thenotoriousmma”.
This comes a week after retired boxer Oscar De La Hoya claimed he has been secretly training for a bout with “The Notorious One.” Speaking on ‘Golden Boy Radio with Tattoo and the Crew’, De La Hoya claimed “I’m faster than ever and stronger than ever. I know I can take out Conor McGregor out in two rounds”.
After his most recent loss to Australian boxer Jeff Horn, retirement looked imminent for ‘Pac-Man’. But a shot at McGregor and the pay day his name brings, appears to be far too tempting.
McGregor loves to test himself and he loves money. So he will be licking his lips just thinking about the opportunity to get back in the ring against a high calibre opponent like Pacquiao. Not just to make money, but to prove his doubters wrong after his boxing debut against Floyd Mayweather Jr.
McGregor’s immediate future looks set to be a fight with Tony Ferguson in 2018. But after that who knows what the future holds for the UFC lightweight champion.
If McGregor’s next fight is a boxing match with Pacquiao, then it could spell the end of his title reign. As Ferguson likes to say it’s ‘defend or vacate’ time.
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