At MSG on Nov. 12, 2016, the UFC held their first event in New York State since a 1995 ban by Arizona Senator John McCain was overturned. What was once called “human cockfighting” grew into a global and widely recognized sport. At the center of it all on this fateful night was none other than Conor “The Notorious” McGregor (21-3).
McGregor became the first two-division UFC champion in history, finishing Eddie “The Underground King” Alvarez (29-6) in the first round. After the monumental achievement, McGregor had his sights set on bigger goals (part owner of the UFC and defending his Featherweight and Lightweight titles). Then, a changing of the guard took place.
Just before UFC 206, McGregor was stripped of his UFC Featherweight title for undisclosed reasons, and long-time rival Jose “Junior” Aldo (27-4) was promoted as champion again, leaving fans and media confused.
It was later discovered that McGregor, the UFC’s biggest draw, was in talks to compete in a crossover fight against Floyd “Money” Mayweather (49-0). Therefore, the UFC moved forward and stripped McGregor of his lightweight title in the process.
With McGregor’s absence, pay-per-view buy rates have dropped to all-time lows over the last two years. The lowest buy rate occurred in May at UFC 224, which was headlined between Amanda “The Lioness” Nunes (16-4) and Raquel “Rocky” Pennington (8-6) in Brazil. The event did 85,000 buys, according to Dave Meltzer’s: The Wrestling Observer.
While the UFC has been able to put together a few“mega” events (UFC 207, UFC 214, UFC 217) during McGregor’s two-year “leave,” nothing compares to an event headlined by McGregor, and the numbers don’t lie. McGregor has a cocky persona. Either it is loved or hated by the public. Regardless, people will tune in to watch him fight.
Some argue that McGregor does not deserve an immediate title shot in his first fight back, but I happen to disagree.
Did he throw a dolly through a bus window? Absolutely. Did he avoid jail time? No doubt. However, with my 12-year following of the UFC, I saw his return coming a mile away.
The UFC is a business. Simple as that. UFC President Dana White likes money and lots of it.
The UFC has struggled in 2018 with putting on good events and promoting them effectively. In order for the UFC to finish 2018 on a high note, they need their biggest star, McGregor, back in the octagon once again.
His opponent, Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov (26-0), is the perfect match-up for the former two-time Irish champion. It’s your basic striker vs. grappler contest and on Oct. 6, the world will find out if the UFC is “back.”
Even better, both men hate each other, and the UFC benefits immensely if McGregor does, in fact, win, because they make an insurmountable amount of money.
McGregor is doing the UFC a favor. The Irishman is stable financially and has enough money for the remainder of his life. However, the UFC needs him, and he is answering the call at the perfect time.
I will not make a prediction, but I have seen tons of fights over the years, and know that it will be one of the most memorable fights in the history of not just the UFC, but MMA.