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Fightweets: Has Conor McGregor damaged his brand?

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When the previous edition of Fightweets went live, Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor was the main event of UFC 200.

A few days later, all hell broke loose, and now McGregor's on the sidelines, while Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones is the new headliner for the July 9 show in Las Vegas.

Time, then, for a look at those developments and a whole lot more.

Conor and the UFC

@Fitdudeyeah: If u had 2 guess, was Conor's tweet about him being back on 200 a pure negotiating move or was there any truth?

I've gotten scores of questions about the whole tiff between McGregor and the UFC, the chain of events which led to Diaz-McGregor 2 getting called off, and the aftermath, so rather than list them all out, I'm going to use this question as the launching point for all things UFC 200Gate.

The tweet you refer to, of course, was the one in which McGregor announced Sunday night that he was back on UFC 200, which turned out to be patently false. It also seems the point at much of the audience tipped seeing the validity of both sides' position to viewing McGregor as the Boy Who Cried Wolf.

When McGregor kicked off this whole kerfluffle by announcing the shortest-lived retirement we've ever seen in this sport -- which itself was likely done to get ahead of the UFC announcing he was off the card -- he got everyone's attention. When he made his long Facebook post detailing his side of the story, he came off as sympathetic, rational, and full of valid points. McGregor's done an astounding amount of work to get to his level, going above and beyond what anyone not named Ronda Rousey has done in helping to fuel Zuffa's second boom period. So why not bend a bit and spare a star fighter coming off a loss from traveling eight time zones in the middle of camp? Rousey gets to go home and sleep in her own bed at the end of most of her media days. Floyd Mayweather makes the media come out to his gym in Las Vegas when he deigns to speak to them. A little flexibility doesn't seem all that unreasonable.

Of course, the UFC also had valid points to make when they pulled McGregor from the card. They had already set the machinery in motion for UFC 200 when McGregor decided he didn't want to go on the press junket. There are indeed plenty of moving parts involved in pulling off a major event, and they're not cheap. And none of this factors in the notion that there could be bigger issues at play here that neither side is publicly discussing, which seems a given.

The featherweight champ, though, overplayed his hand with his final tweet. Fans expect promoters play fast and loose with the truth. They don't seem to tolerate the same from fighters. If there even was any consideration to putting McGregor back on the card, the "I'm back" tweet slammed the door shut. The UFC plainly decided the money they're taking off the table by not having McGregor headline UFC 200 is worth setting a precedent and making sure other headstrong headliners don't pull a similar route.

McGregor will be back. And whatever his next fight will be is going to be gigantic. As will the pressure. Fans love a fighter who talks smack and backs it up. If he wins, this will all be a blip on the radar -- consider how deep in the doghouse Jon Jones was at one point, and now consider that he's headlining UFC 200. If he loses? Two straight losses sandwiching the UFC 200 flap would make 2016 the year McGregor played Icarus and got burned.

Cormier-Jones fatigue

@JayHynes: Are you tired of DC/Jones? I feel like the idea has been exhausted beyond any kind of pull, but I don't know why

Are you kidding? I'm a writer. I will never, ever get tired of Cormier (who has the media game figured out as well as anyone in the business) or Jones (one of the most compulsively interesting people who has ever been involved in this business full of compulsively interesting people), especially when you mix the two. I found the the UFC 200 press conference in New York to be splendid theater, even if that theater at times happened to be theater of the absurd.

I'm also intrigued by the fight itself. Was it simply ring rust that caused Jones to go the distance with OSP? Was OSP just better than he's been credited? Yes, the Jones of 18 months ago would likely roll over Cormier. But look at the list of champions 18 months ago and contrast it to now. There's been massive turnover -- Lawler is now the second-longest-reigning champ -- and many of those who dropped along the way did so in fights people thought they had no chance of losing. If Jones handles DC like he did the first time, then, sure, he's back to being the same fighter he was in his prime. But I'm not taking anything for granted after what we've seen the past couple years.

That said, I got approximately 14 billion questions (I might be exaggerating a bit) about McGregor for this week and two about DC-Jones, so you might be on to something. Maybe it seems a letdown after all the commotion the past couple weeks. But given UFC 200 almost sold out entirely in the presale, I'm guessing people will come around by the time the fight does.

Upcoming fight cards

@zachjmiddleton: UFC 199 seems to be an underrated event. After 199, then 200, so many match-ups will be crystal clear, right?

What's been lost in all the Conor-related madness over the past week-plus has been the fact that the next three UFC pay-per-view lineups, on paper, are absolutely killer. UFC 198 on May 14 in Brazil is shaping up as a night to remember, a Brazil vs. the world All-Star Game of a card in front of a sold-out soccer stadium. The sheer star power and setting should make this event one we talk about years down the road. UFC 199, as you wisely note, is the sleeper card of the bunch. It's shaping up to be sensational. Two title fights. Max Holloway vs. Ricardo Lamas. Dan Henderson vs. Hector Lombard. B.J. Penn's return against Dennis Siver. Then you keep on digging and you find Dustin Poirier vs. Bobby Green and Bryan Ortega vs. Clay Guida and it just keeps going. And I've already weighed in at length on the fact UFC 200 just might be the deepest top-to-bottom card the UFC has ever put together.

We're about to enter another one of those stretches like like late last year, the one which started with Holly Holm head kicking Ronda Rousey, and going on through McGregor's knockout of Jose Aldo, Diaz calling McGregor out on FOX, and finishing with Robbie Lawler and Carlos Condit ringing in the New Year in spectacular fashion. Buckle up.

As for your question, sure, this would seem to lead to the next slate of big fights. But I'm not going to say which ones, because, well, look at it this way: If someone had told you a couple months ago that Rafael dos Anjos would break his foot, which would lead to McGregor abandoning his quest for two titles and instead fighting Nate Diaz on short notice and losing, and oh, by the way, Miesha Tate will defeat Holly Holm on the same card, and then the UFC would immediately go book a rematch between McGregor and Diaz, once again at welterweight, at UFC 200, and that would implode and we'd get Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones, which we were supposed to get in April but Jones fought Ovince Saint Preux instead, and while we're at it, Tate's first title defense isn't against Holm or Rousey but rather Amanda Nunes, and also Fabricio Werdum is going to meet Stipe Miocic in a sold-out futbol stadium and RDA will return and fight on Fight Pass, I mean, I'd probably ask you where in Colorado or Washington I have to go to get my hands on whatever you've been smoking.

Posturing for MSG

@GiglioTrey: What is the best headlining fight to make for MSG? Diaz vs MacGregor, Rousey vs Holm or Tate or other?

It's hard to speculate this far into the future, because, I mean, just go back and look at my previous paragraph for a little glimpse at how nuts things can get in this sport. But that said, since the fighters are already angling to get on UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden, there are a few things to ponder: 1. All indications seem to be November is the timetable for a Rousey return. They brought her out to New York for the ceremony in which Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill legalizing the sport. That wasn't an accident; 2. If they're going to bring back Georges St-Pierre, and it doesn't look like it's getting done in time for UFC 200, a supershow setting seems like the right time; 3. The UFC seems bent on putting McGregor on UFC 201 or 202. UFC 200 will be giant with or without McGregor. So will UFC 205. But you can make an otherwise mundane card simply by putting McGregor's return as the main event. So the dance the UFC and McGregor do about card placement is one worth watching.

If you want me to put money on just one fight coming off, I'd say Rousey's return, with Tate most likely. The rest, just grab some popcorn and watch it unfold.

Curtains for Showtime?

@FightinaMug What does the future look like for @Showtimepettis?

Great question. There have been two main theories floating around as to why Anthony Pettis has put together one of the most shocking three-fight losing streaks we've seen an elite fighter go on in quite some time. One holds that dos Anjos put such a beating on Pettis in taking his lightweight title at UFC 185 that Pettis is destined never to be the same. That happens (See: Louiseau, David and quite possibly Barao, Renan). The other theory holds the rest of the pack has simply caught up and figured out his style, while Pettis simply stopped evolving.

It could very well be a combination of both. Pettis hasn't been blown out of his losses to Eddie Alvarez and Edson Barboza. But he's never been able to pull the trigger since the RDA beatdown, either.

Hopefully for Pettis, it's more a case of the second theory than the first. If so, a change of scenery -- whether that's more time at Jackson's MMA or a move to 145 -- seems his best option.

DJ and P4P

@RuckerYeah: Do you think Mighty Mouse is P4P No. 1?

Longtime readers know I've been banging the drum for Demetrious Johnson for years, and in the process taking flack from trolls with nothing better to bring to the table than calling flyweights "midgets." So I'm glad to see the people are finally coming around on what just an awesome all-around talent the longest-reigning current champ in the UFC really is. Absolutely dismantling an undefeated Olympic gold medalist will do that for ya.

Right now, I see "Mighty Mouse" and Jones as 1A and 1B. Jones' track record speaks for itself. Johnson, though, mowed through one opponent after another while Jones was inactive. Flyweight's not a bad division, the champ's just made the rest of the pack look that way.

So for now I'm calling it a tie. Let's see what Jones does against Cormier and then go from there.

(I've finally gotten around to creating a professional Facebook page. If you've been a loyal Fightweets reader over the years, do me a favor and like the page to help me get it up and running. Thanks!)

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