Conor McGregor made history at UFC 205 when he knocked out Eddie Alvarez in the second round to become the first simultaneous two-division champion in UFC history. It’s an apex no fighter had ever reached previously, but that doesn’t mean MMA’s biggest superstar is anywhere close to content.
After beating Alvarez in what looked like the most effortless contest of his 10-fight UFC career, McGregor revealed that his longtime girlfriend Dee Devlin is pregnant with their first child. With an expected due date of May 2017, the Irish fighting sensation is displaying a shift in his priorities.
Despite telling Rolling Stone prior to UFC 205 that he was “set for life” and in position to provide for future generations of his family name, that still isn’t good enough. McGregor wants more, and that goes far beyond cashing in record-setting fight purses or hanging multiple belts off his shoulders.
McGregor is not oblivious to the fact he’s giving the UFC more than he’s getting back, and it’s likely been that way for his past several fights. But now that he holds both the UFC Lightweight and Featherweight championships and is in a greater position of power than any fighter the sport has seen past or present – including Ronda Rousey – he intends on taking advantage.
For him, that means a piece of UFC ownership. The company was recently purchased by Hollywood talent agency giant WME-IMG for a whopping $4.2 billion, and according to documents sent out to potential investors by the previous owners, McGregor’s presence in the organization since his April 2013 debut played a substantial role in elevating the price tag.
McGregor has seen those documents and wants what he believes is a fair shake. And if he has to sit on the sideline to focus on the birth of his child while holding two title belts hostage to ensure that happens, he made no bones about the fact he’s OK with doing so.
“I’ve been happy to just come do what I’ve been doing – I feel I’ve outworn the previous contract – now it’s time for the real shit,” McGregor told the media following his UFC 205 victory. “I know I’m the highest paid already, but when I’m looking at what they’re taking in, that list that (former UFC owner) Lorenzo [Ferttita] compiled to show the new owners, that’s like the gospel right there. That’s proof of what I bring.
“You want me to come around, stick around and service that debt (from the purchase) and continue to push? Bring me on board for real. Not just as this. I need to be set for life for this. If you want me to be truly in on this then I need to be all in on this. Proper. That’s a stake in the company.”
It’s difficult to argue with McGregor’s point. Several years ago the idea of a fighter owning an actual piece of the UFC would be dismissed as laughable. However, McGregor’s rise to the top of the sport has been unprecedented. He walks a road all his own and transcends fighting and all the rules that have previously applied.
Moreover, McGregor’s numbers back up his reasoning. He has competed three times in 2016, and win or lose, every fight turns into a more grandiose spectacle than the last. His two fights with Nate Diaz at UFC 196 in March and UFC 202 in August drew a combined $18.8 million in live gate sales and reportedly broke the UFC pay-per-view record each time with more than 3 million total buys.
UFC 205, which marked the organization’s highly anticipated return to New York after MMA was banned in the state for more than 20 years, “broke every record” for the company, according to UFC President Dana White.
The fight with Alvarez, who despite being 155-pound champion and having a long and storied career, was largely unheralded to the casual and mainstream audience, pulled in a UFC and Madison Square Garden live gate record at $17.7 million. That smashed the previous UFC high of $11 million set by UFC 129 in April 2011, an event in Toronto, which was headlined by Georges St-Pierre.
Furthermore, the event is also expected to top the UFC pay-per-view record once more. McGregor predicted prior to UFC 205 that the card would sell more than two million buys, and as usual, his assent appears on point. If that number holds up, he would bypass boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather’s record for most combat sports pay-per-views sold in a single year at more than 4.5 million.
With all that perspective, McGregor’s request for a stake in UFC ownership doesn’t seem so farfetched after all, especially because WME-IMG has already proven willing to sell of pieces to outsiders such as a long list of celebrity investors announced in late September.
“Whoever runs this shit now has got to come to me and give me the real slice because that’s what I’ve earned,” McGregor said. “They’ve got to come talk to me now because no one’s came and talked to me since the sale has happened as a business-man. I’ve been approached as, ‘Hello’ and that type of stuff, but I’ve earned something.”
McGregor thinks he’s in the same league as some of the famous names who own small chunks of the company he fights for.
“Who owns the company now? People have shares. Celebrities. Conan O’Brien owns the UFC now. Where’s my share? Where’s my equity? I’m the one that’s bringing this. They’ve got to come talk to me now. I’ve got both belts, family on the way. If you want me to stick around, if you want me to keep doing (this), let’s talk. But I want the ownership now. I want the equal share. I want what I deserve, what I’ve earned.”
Whether McGregor’s desires for the future shake out remains to be seen, but he made it clear he’s willing to hold out until he gets what he wants. Despite a bevy of deserving contenders eager to challenge for his belts in both weight classes, McGregor said he’s not going to step back in the Octagon again until he’s compensated with exactly what he knows he’s worth.
He may already be the highest paid fighter the sport has ever seen, with his most recent publicly-announced purse against Diaz at UFC 202 coming in at a record $3 million it’s clear he wants to generate a payday in the realm of someone like Mayweather, which would come in at closer to $30 million.
At just 28, McGregor said he could be kept around the UFC for many years to come and has much more to offer in terms of fights and promotion. He could even be looking to make more history by jumping up to the Welterweight division and seeking a third piece of UFC gold for his collection.
Many use the term “the sky’s the limit,” but for McGregor’s career, it truly applies. He’s not going to push the limit for a penny less than what he feels worthy of, though, but if the UFC brass disagrees, McGregor’s next and perhaps toughest fight could be against management.
“I feel like I’m only reaching me prime,” McGregor said. “I could keep going but I’m aware of my worth. I’ve got a family on the way, I’ve got a kid on the way and I’m coming for mine now. I own the featherweight division. I’m dominating the 155 now. And 170, I have no problem with going to 170. I’ve been to 170, … I’m sizing them up all week and saying, ‘They’re not on my level either.’ We’ll see. Like I said, there’s hurdles (before I fight again).”