Conor McGregor says his dispute with UFC became a “publicized civil war” once he refused to participate in a promotion for a fight and the wildly popular fighter took his unhappiness to social media.
The mixed martial arts superstar was fed up with the grueling promotional demands that come with being a pay-per-view star. The 27-year-old fighter known for his over-the-top personality refused to participate last month in publicity for his scheduled UFC 200 fight against Nate Diaz.
McGregor told ESPN in his first interview since then that he simply wanted a reduced promotional schedule.
“I was going through some things. There was some crazy stuff going on back home,” he said in the interview that aired Sunday. “I wanted to be focused on my training. It was a time where I was figuring out something. I didn’t just shut out and say no to everything. I wanted to do reasonable media.”
McGregor had been training for a rematch against Nate. He lost to Diaz in March, ending a 15-fight winning streak in which he surprised many fans by fighting 25 pounds above his usual weight of 145 pounds, where he holds a title belt. The rematch was set to be fought at 170 pounds.
McGregor stirred fans in April with a tweet saying he had decided to retire young. That prompted UFC President Dana White to respond by saying McGregor had been pulled from UFC 200 because of the dispute over promotional appearances for the card. White said McGregor was refusing to travel to Las Vegas for promotions; McGregor posted on Facebook that he couldn’t afford the time he would need to leave his training camp in Iceland.
His later retirement tweet riled up fans, though his threat was never taken seriously.
“It blew up. I was kind of having fun with that to start, it was kind of halfhearted,” he said. “Then all of a sudden it’s, ‘You’re off 200.’ It was fun to see it all blow up like that. It was amusing for a while.”
McGregor said he some flickering thoughts that he should have participated in the news conferences.
“Seeing the press conferences take place, I was like, I should’ve just jumped on the (darn) flight. I should’ve just stuck it out and went with it,” he said. “But sometimes you’ve got to do what’s right for you, and not do what’s right for everybody else, and especially if you’ve done what’s right for everybody else a million times over, you should have the right to be able to do what’s right for you sometimes. That’s what I felt.”
McGregor said he remained “committed to the fight game” and met with UFC officials last week in California to smooth out the relationship. McGregor and Diaz could possibly have a rematch at UFC 202 in August.
McGregor even teased an improbable fight against retired boxing great Floyd Mayweather.
“Who doesn’t want to conquer both worlds? He’s getting old now,” McGregor said. “He needs me, I don’t need him. Who else can he fight?”
His loss to Diaz punctured the intimidating aura earned by McGregor, the loquacious Irish star who sits alongside Ronda Rousey as the UFC’s biggest pay-per-view stars. McGregor had stopped his previous five opponents, and he landed numerous big shots on Diaz before tiring and losing the fight on the ground to Diaz’s superior jiu-jitsu.