Retirement and un-retirement is not something that is new to Conor McGregor and it is something that he has done in the past as well. However, if the MMA star who loves talking like he loves a good fight, has in actuality called it quits; UFC will be lacking its most well-recognized fighters in the midst of attempting an expansion of its mark on the already packed landscape of sports.
UFC has managed to bring out sportspersons with a certain crossover appeal. Examples such as Jon Jones who was the first MMA fighter to have an endorsement with Nike for a signature shoe; or for that fact Ronda Rousey who took up professional wrestling after drawing a large number of pay-per-view spectators only from 2016 are definitely quite prominent. However, McGregor’s retirement would mean the end of a very intense crossover rivalry and could raise questions on whether he would take on Mayweather again?
1. The ESPN deal
At this juncture, the sport is facing a period that is fallow, with timing that is very unfortunate. ESPN has entered into an agreement with UFC to become its broadcasting partner at 41.5 billion for 5 years. This would imply that it would exclusively air the pay-per-view main events on the streaming network known as ESPN+.
As per data from Nielsen, from five match-ups that were telecasted on the main channels of ESPN, it was observed that the average number of viewers were 1,462,000 which is greater than two times of those that were viewed on FS1 in the previous year. Losing out on such a big name could be costly for UFC unless they manage to develop fighters who would replace McGregor which would definitely be quite a daunting task.
2. Could Dustin Poirier be the next poster boy?
Poirier had taken on McGregor at UFC 178 way back in 2014 when the latter was a rapidly rising featherweight division star. At that point of time aged 25 Poirier was considered a veteran who had faced some setback with fighters in the upper echelon of UFC. Poirier was definitely considered to be a tough test but McGregor still managed to have the upper hand.
However, currently Poirier is considered to be a contender who is the fastest to rise, with a lot more dedication and half a decade more of experience at the high level. Considering his current form, bookmakers are of the opinion that the chances of him winning his upcoming match against Max Holloway are highly in his favour. One can choose from the best legal sports betting options to bet on this match where the odds are at 2, 19/10, 7/4 and 19/10 in his favour with bet365, Unibet, betway and 888sport respectively.
3. The problem of the lack of a big star
It is highly likely that Poirier will become big in a very short period of time. However, the issue that arises is that until he actually does, it could be a problem for the UFC. Owing to the fact that there is a large volume of content that is available if the programming for UFC is already charted for three weeks and there are two option available- one which is for $65 and the other which is free; convincing people to choose the former becomes quite a task if there aren’t any immediately recognizable stars.