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Conor McGregor dismisses 2020 retirement announcement: ‘I’ll probably never retire from the game’

Conor McGregor
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Conor McGregor’s retirement announcements are becoming routine by now, but don’t let them fool you: He’s planning to stick around.

That’s the latest word from McGregor, a former two-division UFC champion who has thrice teased that he was wrapping up his fighting career, most recently doing so via Twitter shortly after the conclusion of UFC 250 this past June. McGregor’s latest bit of retirement talk was soon followed by public negotiations with past opponent Dustin Poirier for a rematch, which eventually became official and is set to take place on Saturday at UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi.

“The Notorious” previously explained that his announcement was at partially motivated by frustrations with the UFC’s failure to provide him with compelling matchups. McGregor has since mended his fences with UFC President Dana White and it now sounds like the end of his career is no longer on the horizon.

“I’ll probably never retire from the game, to be honest,” McGregor said in an interview with ESPN. “I’ll be competing for a long, long time yet. It is certainly brought out of frustration when you’re trying to get these events going. You’re trying to get things moving and it’s just not happening. It felt like I was shelved almost. I felt like if I’d have been ran out a couple of more times that year, not only would my skill set and my sharpness and everything be in tune a lot more, we’d also be talking about $800 million in revenue for the company, it was certainly out of frustration.

“The past is the past. We’re in a great spot now. I felt like I’ve got what I needed to get off my chest and I felt like it’s been reciprocated well, it’s come back, the other side has come back as well. I’m in a great spot and I’m excited to come back and that’s what we’re at. We’re focusing on the positive side of it and we’re focusing on the future.”

As content as McGregor is now with his position, his feeling of disillusionment was very real. He made a triumphant return to the octagon at UFC 246 after 14 months away, defeating Donald Cerrone in just 40 seconds, but that would turn out to be his only appearance of 2020 as McGregor’s grand plans for 2020 were rendered moot when the coronavirus pandemic took hold in March and turned the world upside down.

McGregor claims that it was always his intention to follow up on his UFC 246 performance until circumstances spun out of control.

“Come on, there was a lot of talks about me coming back,” McGregor said. “I was so eager to come back, I wanted to come back. The Tuesday after the fight against Cerrone I had that meeting with Lorenzo [Fertitta] and Dana and the conversation was what do we do now? What’s next? There didn’t really seem to be—What was the next bout? We had not got the answer at that dinner and it just didn’t come to fruition. I was eager, I was trying to get things moving and it just didn’t happen, with all the circumstances surrounding it, the year, it just went the way it went and it is what it is.

“I feel now I have transformed my body into a lightweight frame again. I’ve done it healthily, I’m full of energy, I’m full of vitality and I’m ready to showcase myself at 155 pounds at my absolute best and I’m very excited about that. Doing that also opens up many more options for me. There’s many lightweight contenders. There’s many options. I’ve even heard Nate is coming back down to 155, which is an exciting one. Obviously, there’s boxing escapades and things. I don’t think what happened last year will happen this year and I’ve kept that fire going throughout 2020 and I’m excited to continue it into 2021.”

Back in the mix, McGregor has said he expects a boxing match with legend Manny Pacquiao to develop and he is once again open to a trilogy bout with Nate Diaz to conclude their series that has already headlined two of the most lucrative pay-per-views in UFC history. Much of this renewed positivity has to do with his close relationship with White, which has seen plenty of drama aired out in public, good and bad.

White actually accused McGregor of breaking “man code” last year when McGregor shared their direct messages on social media. In 2020, the tensions between the two were as high as they’ve ever been according to McGregor, but it’s all water under the bridge as far as he’s concerned.

“At that time when I was putting that out, obviously there was frustrations because I was campaigning for a fight and it was like [the UFC was saying], ‘I wasn’t campaigning for a fight,’ and I was a bit upset with that,” McGregor said. “Then me putting them out was around the time that Diego [Sanchez] was giving me a lot of respect in the media and he had just had a fight and a victory. I wanted to show my respect and say Diego I am actually looking for a bout against you also. I have no problem competing against you. I understand Diego may be on the tail-end of his career, but it wasn’t like it was just a one-and-all.

“It was part of a collection of bouts I was looking for. I wanted activity. I’m a competitor and a competitor needs activity. It is what it is, it went the way it went, all in the past.”

Overall, the build-up to McGregor’s first fight of 2021 and second fight with Poirier has been devoid of the Irishman’s usual theatrics. Some of that has to do with COVID-19 safety protocols that have restricted the UFC’s promotional efforts, but it also has to do with McGregor apparently having a fresh mindset.

McGregor and Poirier first fought over six years ago, with McGregor claiming victory, and since then the two have both had enormous success in the UFC. However, McGregor’s outside-of-the-cage reputation has been spotty as he’s dealt with legal issues that include attacking a bus transporting UFC athletes during fight week for UFC 223 in Brooklyn, an arrest for strong-armed robbery in Miami, as well as sexual assault allegations in his native Ireland.

He claims that his experiences and the responsibilities of fatherhood have helped him to learn and given him a greater appreciation for his mentors.

“We’re more mature myself and Dustin, we’re both fathers and we’ve come through a lot,” McGregor said. “We both are engaged in much philanthropic efforts, I know he’s doing a great thing with The Good Fight Foundation. How can I not respect Dustin? One, for that. and two, for how he handled the lost loss and how he came back and how he rose up and became a champion. That’s admirable in my book. I’m very excited to get in and compete with him.

“Especially as I get older in life, I feel it’s our duty as human beings to give back. I think we’ve all got to give back in this world. As I’m getting older I have so much admiration for the coaches and the trainers and the teachers because if you think about it, it’s all volunteer work. They dedicate their time to help train the youth and guide the youth and I have so much admiration for that. Growing up, I would never really think of the coaches or anything in that way, that these people are actually taking time. They’ve got their own families, they’ve got their own things, but here they are dedicating their team to help coach and train the youth and give them a much-needed outlet, especially in this day and age. So I want to go back and support that. I’m gonna support people to support people. Support these gyms and these places and that’s what my aim will be for this part of my life.”

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