We know Conor McGregor is very good at three things: fighting, talking and getting people to talk about his fighting and talking. Tuesday afternoon, he put the latter two skills on full display.
McGregor tweeted Tuesday afternoon that he has “decided to retire young,” not offering any context or further comment regarding the three sentences that dominated Twitter. The 27-year-old lost to Nate Diaz last month, but he was rumored to have a rematch with Diaz slated for UFC 200 in July, though that appears to be off the table thanks to Tuesday night’s news from UFC president Dana White that McGregor has been pulled from the event. It now appears the rest of McGregor’s future in UFC is up in the air.
The tweet has sent social media and the blogosphere scrambling for answers, though it’s a seemingly straightforward statement (or poem?). Could one of the world’s best and most revered fighters walk away, Marshawn Lynch-style?
If the tweet is true and McGregor is retiring, then the death of João Carvalho will likely be the first thing discussed as a cause, as McGregor was ringside in Dublin when Carvalho was knocked out by Charlie Ward, a teammate of McGregor’s. The fight took place on a Saturday night and the following Monday, after undergoing emergency brain surgery, Carvalho died.
His death, caused by trauma sustained in the fight, shook McGregor, leading him to author a lengthy Facebook post in which he described the incident as “heartbreaking.” Although McGregor has never been one to openly discuss the concept of mortality, let alone his own, the incident allowed a look at the fighter’s thoughts on fighting and the tragedy that unfolded in front of him.
As UFC is a sport that features young rising stars in the spotlight for a brief period of time, McGregor’s retirement would not be crippling, but it would leave the men’s league without one of their most entertaining stars. And a smack talker who can almost always back it up is not exactly an easy commodity to come by.
When searching for answers, some turned to McGregor’s recent follows — because that’s part of the process now, apparently — and found a collection of WWE-related folks. This, of course, led to conclusions that McGregor might leave MMA in the midst of his best fighting years to focus on a more entertainment-driven form of fighting.
It’s hard to argue against the notion that McGregor would make an absolutely perfect WWE star. Although he doesn’t boast the same imposing physical stature as some of the league’s stars, size disadvantage has never stopped the Irishman before. He did fight The Mountain from “Game of Thrones,” after all.
Putting the daydreams of a Roman Reigns-McGregor bout to the side, McGregor is a noted jokester and gifted antagonizer, so the tweet may simply be his latest mind game or trolling job. At the same time, McGregor’s bravado is one that is usually based in reality — he brags about being the best fighter, both to his opponents in the octagon and to Conan O’Brien. He clearly has a strong sense of self-confidence, which has been boosted with each victory. Even so, it would be foolish to take the star’s latest tweet at face value without confirmation.
Until McGregor speaks about whether he truly is or isn’t retiring, we will all do just as the fighter intended: keep talking about Conor McGregor.
UPDATE: Nate Diaz has responded to McGregor’s retirement announcement with one of his own. Again, like McGregor, there’s no telling whether or not this means anything at all. But at this point, Dana White may want to start thinking about UFC 200 alternates.