UFC President Dana White is sticking to his story.
White joined SportsCenter to announce the removal of Conor McGregor from July 9's UFC 200 event Tuesday. While McGregor claimed to retire via social media, White insisted the decision materialized because of McGregor's refusal to promote the fight ahead of time.
Joining Colin Cowherd on Wednesday's edition of The Herd on Fox Sports 1, White elaborated on that point.
"So, Conor basically said that he, he didn’t want to come to Las Vegas," White told Cowherd. "We had a tour planned. We were going to start in Vegas. We were going to then go to Stockton, and then New York. And then he could go back to, you know, to Iceland, where he is right now.
"And he said, ‘I don’t want to do it. I’m not going to come.’ And I was basically saying, ‘You have to come.’ In the history of us owning the UFC, there’s been one time that a guy hasn’t shown up for his press conference, and it was [Nick] Diaz vs. [longtime UFC welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre] GSP [ahead of UFC 137]. I pulled [Nick] Diaz from the fight. You can’t not show up to promote your fight."
Despite the obvious tension in the current situation, White told Cowherd the issue was largely a matter of timing. The conversation between himself and McGregor's team never turned foul.
"It never got combative, and I was talking to his manager," White said. "They were asking to move all this stuff to May, and you can’t move this. This stuff is in motion. All fans care about is the fights, and that’s all they should care about. Any fan of the UFC [knows] that this happened once before when I pulled Nick Diaz from the fight.
"Everyone likes to talk about how I coddle Conor, and I baby Conor, and Conor can do whatever he wants and all this stuff. No, no you can’t. We do give Conor a lot of leeway because Conor delivers. He wasn’t planning on delivering this weekend and I had to pull him. That’s what had to be done."
Many speculated that McGregor – who made a name for himself through his flashy, polarizing style both in and out of the cage – wasn't happy with the money offered from the UFC for his showdown with Nate Diaz in the main event of UFC 200. To these speculators, McGregor's "retirement" was merely a negotiating tactic.
White put that theory to rest.
"[It's] not a money issue. That’s false," White said. "That’s the problem with the Internet. You have all these hacks out there who just make stuff up for clicks. Never, ever was this about money. It was never about money. Conor makes a lot of money, and Conor’s very happy about the money he makes. Conor for the most part is a stand-up guy. He’s never come back after agreeing on a deal, and the fight is announced, and he comes back for more money. Conor is not that type of person."
And while to many it may appear the UFC is burning to the ground, White maintains the chaos is largely overblown. Between himself and McGregor, relations are still fine. Between McGregor and the UFC as a whole, nothing is permanently lost.
"Our relationship isn’t damaged at all," White said. "...I’m not even mad a little bit. I had pretty smooth day…. When Conor went out, 10 other people called asking to go in. It’s going to be a massive event. It’s still a big fight. No, I’m not mad at all."
Moving away from UFC 200, Cowherd asked White specifically about McGregor's future with the organization. Asked if he believes McGregor will ever fight again, White responded with two words.
"I do," he said.
Perhaps the biggest wild card in all this is the fact that McGregor could still fight at UFC 200. If the Irish fighter acts – and acts fast – White said, he could still participate on the UFC 200 fight card.
"Yeah, if he called me after this interview, we would probably still do it," White said. "The problem with this whole thing is you have to be here to promote your fight and you have to shoot this commercial. We’re spending $10 million in promotion for UFC 200, and all that money is motion. You can’t do this. I don’t care who you are, or how big you are, you can’t do this."