Make no mistake, Conor McGregor's latest outburst is good news for him
Cancelled fights. Criminal charges. Hours of discussion. Mission accomplished.
Conor McGregor's violent eruption in Brooklyn's Barclays Center on Thursday evening has resulted in the cancellation of a number of fights on this weekend's upcoming UFC 223 card, after injuries were sustained by Michael Chiesa & Ray Borg.
He has been charged with three counts of misdemeanour assault and one count of criminal mischief. At some time today, he will find himself standing before a New York judge.
So what was it all for?
It seems as though his decision to turn up and attack the bus was because Khabib Nurmagomedov was on it. Earlier this week, Nurmagomedov had an altercation with McGregor's teammate and close friend Artem Lobov. Khabib himself didn't suffer any injuries, and was ready to go ahead with his title fight against Max Holloway until Holloway himself was deemed unfit to fight on Friday.
The UFC, for years now, has benefitted from the trickle-down McGregornomics that the Crumlin man provides. Even after Thursday's attack on Khabib's bus, Google searches for Khabib Nurmagomedov, Dana White and UFC all peaked.
Between his weight class leap against Nate Diaz and his foray into boxing for an un-winnable clash with Floyd Mayweather, Conor McGregor's mouth has written cheques that his fists don't always cash. But what does that matter when the paying public is willing to cover the costs?
McGregor has emphatically proved that as long as he has other big names waiting in the wings to fight him - whether it's Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao or every single member of the WWE roster - McGregor can use other individuals and companies the same way he has used the UFC. But the UFC only has one McGregor.
Felice Herrig captured part of the ruckus caused behind the scenes when Conor McGregor and his team arrived. This is from her Instagram account pic.twitter.com/9R6T2eNNTs
— Damon Martin (@DamonMartin) April 5, 2018
EA Sports UFC 3 came out this February with McGregor on its cover, 14 months since he actually last fought in the UFC. Imagine if FIFA 19 comes out with a football player we've not seen in over a year on the box — it just wouldn't make any sense. That's how much the UFC marketing department leans on McGregor.
The company has repeatedly indulged McGregor's impulsive streak, long-embraced the more controversial aspects of his character, for one reason and one reason only — the same reason that motivates McGregor to be controversial in the first place: money.
Whatever else there is to say about him, Conor McGregor has made stacks on top of stacks unfailingly since "60 Gs, baby" and his most recent fight was far and away his highest payday yet.
If some rookie with no wins to his name had trashed a bus and threatened a fellow competitor ahead of a major event, he could kiss his career in the UFC goodbye. But McGregor, undeniably the company's main breadwinner, has a lot more leverage than that.
The NYPD might have him in custody, but look at the responses of the people who truly matter for the future of McGregor's career. Asked if he still wants to be in business with Conor McGregor, President Dana White said: "Would you? I don’t think anybody is gonna want to right now. I think everybody is gonna be pretty disgusted with Conor McGregor right now." So, in other words, eventually... yes.
For his part, Khabib, the fighter who was the subject of McGregor's rampage, has said: "To be honest, I don’t want him to go to jail. We have to fight. If we have to fight, let’s fight. Send me location. Please, we have to fix this. Me and you. One-on-one."
Simple as. Even now, in the immediate aftermath of an event that White called "the most disgusting thing that has ever happened in UFC history," everyone knows this isn't the end of McGregor's relationship with the company or the professional fighting world. As Conor McGregor prepares to answer charges of assault and criminal mischief, the UFC is preparing a plan for how they can make it look like they're taking action against McGregor while they wait for the right opportunity to make sweet, sweet bank together again.
— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) April 6, 2018
And even if Conor's strained relationship with the UFC finally does snap, he'll fall right into the arms of the professional wrestling. With all the tossing of railings and chairs at buses backstage, Thursday's incident was practically a WWE audition tape.
Conor McGregor's seemingly unassailable status is nothing new to the world of professional fighting. Floyd Mayweather has been repeatedly accused of beating women. Mike Tyson was convicted of sexual assault in the '90s. UFC fighter Jon Jones injured a pregnant woman in a hit-and-run incident. Society will still turn up to line their pockets and cheer them on. If there's a line that fighters need to cross before they fall out of favour, Conor McGregor is still firmly on the side that society deems acceptable. This truth might be unpleasant, but it is the truth.
The lower you sink, the more people will gather to watch you resurface. Smashing a bus window and ending up in police custody is the exact kind of sauce that turns a sport into the billion-dollar soap opera the money men want it to be. The less it looks like Conor McGregor will fight a truly dangerous opponent in the appropriate weight class like Khabib or Tony Ferguson, the more people will pay to see it happen.
Conor McGregor has an unrivalled knack for wresting the spotlight and shining it on himself and those around him.
Once again he has proven that he doesn't mind smashing the glass to do it.