The mixed martial arts world careened into the Twilight Zone for a few short days this past April, when UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor initiated a public stand-off with the UFC with a simple 13-word tweet announcing his retirement. The tweet has since been re-tweeted and liked over 337,000 times, and within hours after its posting, the sporting world was aflutter with speculation over McGregor's intentions.
"Off I went to the gym, and then I came out of the gym and all of a sudden the thing is f*cking everywhere, like, oh sh*t," McGregor recalled Monday on The MMA Hour. "We were in Iceland, we were doing what we do, training and studying to whoop somebody's ass. That's it. I have access to a phone and my phone has access to millions upon millions upon millions of people.
"So, that was another crazy experience. This life is a roller coaster, there's many ups and downs. But I mean, you've got to look at it like this: who doesn't love a roller coaster? Who wants to be stuck on flat ground going through life?"
The tweet served as the first salvo to a protracted stand-off with the UFC over McGregor's desire for lightened media schedule ahead of his rematch against Nate Diaz, and things quickly spiraled out of control, with McGregor ultimately being publicly removed from UFC 200 and chastised at a launch press conference that featured Diaz and an empty chair, as if to hammer home the cost of McGregor's absence.
McGregor and the UFC eventually came to terms and rebooked the Diaz rematch for Aug. 20 at UFC 202, but the experience taught McGregor much about the power of his social media reach.
"I'll ask you this: were you entertained?" McGregor said. "That's what it's all about, were you f*cking entertained? Because I was. I having a great time. It was crazy, what was going on. This age that we live in is insane. The access that we can have and the things that can blow up from nowhere to everyone -- I'm in Iceland in the middle of nowhere in my room, I have to go training, and I can reach millions upon millions of people in the blink of an eye. I don't know, I'm fascinated by it.
"This new social media age, we don't even watch TV. Who watches TV anymore? There's 40 TVs in this house and there's about 20 people in the house, none of us have had the TV on once. So it's a new age and I'm just capitalizing on it, and I think all the experiences I've had through the retirement thing, the (UFC) 200 (situation), just everything throughout my career on this damn internet, I've learned from it. I've learned that there's power in this.
"If you capitalize correctly, there's power. Look at all of these bum fighters, they're giving over their accounts to these bum clickbait sites. I forget the name of some of them even, but you see they post these stupid articles all of the time. They must be getting like a little monthly wage or something. Well, you're an employee then. I want to be the leader of this and create my own and make it big and make it correct."
The "UFC 200 debacle," as McGregor dubbed it, now stands in retrospect as just another crazy twist in the saga that is the Diaz-McGregor rivalry. Although, with UFC 202 only days away, McGregor admitted there was a moment he thought about keeping true to his promise of retirement, if only for a few hours.
"If it came down to it, I would've," McGregor said. "But good luck trying to keep an Irishman from a fight. I would've showed up and slapped somebody with the way it was all going down. F*ck it. I was happy, and when it all came down, for a day maybe I was like, you know what, f*ck it, I am retired. Put the feet up that night, had a f*cking drink, went out. I was like, f*ck everybody, I'm out of here.
"And then it was like, you've got to do this, you've got to do that. Then it kind of got a little bit more serious. Whatever, it was a crazy experience, but if it came to it, f*ck it, I have enough. I don't know what would've happened. Like I said, I'm comfortable. Win, lose, draw, whatever happens, I'm eating good for the rest of my days. So whatever happens happens, but I do enjoy a good old-fashioned knock, and that's what this is. So I'm very happy to be back."