As everyone is by now aware, Conor McGregor tweeted that he was retiring. Shortly afterwards, Dana White announced that the UFC had removed McGregor from his scheduled bout at UFC 200. And for the rest of the afternoon and evening, MMA fans the world over desperately scoured the internet to figure out what precipitated all of this.
Well, Chael Sonnen thinks he knows. Last night after all the hoopla, Sonnen did a Facebook live chat where he answered many listener comments surrounding McGregor's situation and talked about his knowledge of the behind the scenes workings.
"I don't have any inside info on this. Just being around the business since the 90's, I know how it works. I know how this whole thing went down. And if I tell you what I think, I guarantee I'm 98 percent right if not 100.
"Conor had a deal with the UFC. And Conor's now going back and trying to renegotiate and it just doesn't work that way. It can't. You can't write everything down, you can't get your contracts done all the time in this business. There's 500 guys under contract. There's not even that many employees in the UFC. I think there's like 340 employees with 500 fighters. There's 53 shows scheduled for a year that only has 52 weeks in the year. You have to be able to make a phone call, count on whatever the guy says, hang up the phone and that's the end of it. You have to be able to do that.
"Conor has a contract, he made a deal, somewhere he didn't sign it. Let the promotion go out, let the money get spent and then realized ‘I've got the upper hand. Now I can come back and renegotiate. Who's going to tell me no when the advertising is already done?' That's what he did. Guaranteed. With no inside knowledge, guaranteed that's what happened."
While Sonnen has no direct knowledge of the situation, he was one of the UFC's biggest stars for several years and has an intimate knowledge of how negotiations between fighters and management take place. If what Sonnen theorizes is true, it would serve as proof that the long swirling rumors of a growing rift between McGregor and Zuffa were right all along.
During the live chat, Sonnen made several attempts to get in contact with McGregor but was unable to reach him. As Sonnen tried to reach out he continued answering questions on the topic including on the effects of McGregor's decision.
"He might really be done...I don't know if he wants to be done. This was a negotiation tool. But he called the bluff of the wrong guys. These are gamblers man, there's rules in Vegas. If you say bet you have a bet. I mean that. You go to a casino, you don't put your money down, you tell the pit boss ‘I want that bet' if he yells the word bet you have a bet. And it goes both ways. If you win it he'll pay you...Anytime you go into a negotiation and you call someone's bluff, man you better mean it because this is what can happen."
If McGregor really is done, he would be the eighth UFC champion to vacate a belt for non-injury reasons behind Couture, Rutten, Shamrock, Bustamante, Penn, St. Pierre, and Pulver. He would be the only one of those to vacate a belt while coming off a loss. If things are as Sonnen believes them to be, the coming off a loss part could severely hurt McGregor in the court of public opinion.
"When you get beat up by a guy, and then you agree to fight him again, and then you pull out, it really doesn't matter after that. And the miscalculation here by Conor is he's not gonna be telling his side. He's gonna be telling his side to whoever.com. He's not gonna be telling it on FS1 or ESPN or anywhere else. Those days are gone. This was a big mistake."
Regardless of whether this is just a stand off between fighter and management or has its genesis in something else entirely, UFC 200 is now without a headliner. As a perceived flagpole event for the promotion, Zuffa has now been left to scramble for a suitable replacement, a matter which Sonnen also addressed.
"Who's a good replacement for Conor? I guarantee you Georges St.-Pierre's phone is blowing up right now and he's getting a big offer. That's the guy they're gonna go after."
St Pierre has been in the news lately for his renewed negotiations with Zuffa and possible return; however, St. Pierre appears to have some major sticking points about coming back, specifically regarding the Reebok deal, which may not be so easily assuaged. If St. Pierre can't be enticed, Sonnen speculated that a Ronda Rousey-Holly Holm rematch or possibly Jon Jones-Daniel Cormier would be the next plan for the UFC. One thing he was clear on though was that McGregor was absolutely no longer an option.
"This is the biggest UFC of all time and sometimes that's a fun thing to say for promotional reasons, but it is. When you talk about the ratings, when you talk about the biggest show of all time nobody ever even brings up UFC 100 because it was such an anomaly and the numbers were so crazy that you just throw it out. It's like a curve in school. So UFC 200 you would have to imagine would be that big. He was sitting on top of the bill and this is done. The commercials are out. There's a lot of money that's already spent. There's a lot of billboards that are already up....I've known Dana since 2005. He's not putting a patch in this boat. Conor could call him right now, he's not patching up UFC 200."
You can listen to the entire live chat below, including Sonnen comparing McGregor to the Ultimate Warrior.
5 MUST-READ STORIES
Chaos. Conor McGregor tweeted that he is retiring.
Sure you did. Dana White tells ESPN that the UFC pulled Conor from UFC 200 for not fulfilling media obligations.
Motivated BJ Penn. BJ Penn thinks Greg Jackson and preparation will be the key to his UFC return being successful.
What we have here is a failure to communicate. Demetrious Johnson talks about hearing second hand that the new season of TUF would be for a title challenger.
Suspensions. Medical suspensions were released for the UFC on Fox 19 fighters.
EXTRA CREDIT READING
Nothing today folks. Conor monopolized everything yesterday so I've got nothing to recommend. I'll make it up to you tomorrow.
Joe Rogan on all the Conor stuff.
Behind the scenes at Bellator. Gotta love how Carano keeps pretending like one day she might return to fighting.
To paraphrase the great Shea Serrano, that's a little thing called putting a stamp on it.
Imperator Furi-Rose-a is great.
Double dose of TTTHS.
Good interview with Javier Mendez about Khabib and other happenings.
Came out before all the Conor shenanigans but good content nonetheless.
Good talk with Eddie Bravo about the upcoming EBI event this weekend.
And thus started the easiest Twitter roundup I've had since taking over the MR. Thanks CM.
I have decided to retire young.— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) April 19, 2016
Thanks for the cheese.
Catch ya's later.
Whataburger was up with this about 10 minutes after Conor's tweet. Fast food indeed.
I have decided to never stop eating Whataburgers.— Whataburger® (@Whataburger) April 19, 2016
Thanks for the cheese.
Catch ya's later
I'm not surprised mother f***ers.
I guess my work here is done I'm retiring too✌ ️— Nathan Diaz (@NateDiaz209) April 19, 2016
When it started to seem like this definitely wasn't a troll job.
Well was fun while it lasted— Coach Kavanagh (@John_Kavanagh) April 19, 2016
He knows a guy.
Dear Dana,— Cowboy Cerrone (@Cowboycerrone) April 20, 2016
I'm pretty open July 9th. Have this thing June 18th in Canada. But after that I'm Game the Fuck ON!!!
Well played, sir.
Derrick Lewis is a must follow on Twitter.
If Condit doesn't retire, him versus Matt Brown would be my favorite fight of all time.
If Conor is really out I'm sure me and Lawler could put on an epic war for you guys... Jus sayin— Matt Brown (@IamTheImmortal) April 20, 2016
I repeat: a must follow.
This blew over really fast in the advent of the CM news. Not a good look.
@arielhelwani Jesus loves knockouts but Mohammed wasn't a fan of summertime MMA? - Choose your religion wisely young fighters!— Coach Kavanagh (@John_Kavanagh) April 17, 2016
Though veiled threats are also not an appropriate response.
Khabib Who Wrestles Bears is angling for that rematch.
And RDA wants no part of it.
@TeamKhabib you got 6 fights in UFC I've beat all this guys in less than one year.You need more work to get you shot and no Meldonium now— Rafael dos Anjos (@RdosAnjosMMA) April 19, 2016
Sorry but Khabib was rather active in the last 24 hours.
No you understand how strong I am https://t.co/OAH9bRNarL— khabib nurmagomedov (@TeamKhabib) April 20, 2016
John Salter(11-3-0) vs. Brandon Halsey (9-1-0); Bellator 156, June 17.
Yuki Yasunaga(14-8-1) vs. Ryuichi Miki(18-9-4), Pancrase 279, July 24.
TODAY IN MMA HISTORY
2013: UFC on Fox 7: Henderson vs. Melendez was held at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California. In the main event, Benson Henderson retained his lightweight championship winning by split decision over Gilbert Melendez in a fight many people called a robbery.
In the co-main event, Daniel Cormier made his promotional debut as a heavyweight, defeating Frank Mir by unanimous decision. Also debuting in the UFC that evening, Yoel Romero defeated Clifford Starks by way of flying knee and follow up punches.
That night also featured the only time in his career that Nate 'the man who retired McGregor' Diaz was stopped via strikes, when Josh Thomson kicked him in the head and then followed up with punches until the referee intervened/the Diaz corner threw in the towel.
2012: Bellator 66 took place at the I-X Center in Cleveland, Ohio. In the main event Eddie Alvarez stopped Shinya Aoki with strikes in the first round, avenging his loss to Aoki by heel hook 3 years earlier.
Also on the card, Andreas Spang defeated Brian Rogers with a highlight reel KO.
1984: UFC veteran and current WSOF lightweight Tyson Griffin was born.
1979: Former UFC title challenger Nate Marquardt was born.
1978: Pride veteran and the first man to ever stop Anderson Silva, Daiju Takase was born.
Think I missed a spot? Found something you'd like to see in the Morning Report? Just hit me up on Twitter @JedKMeshew and we'll include it in tomorrow's column.