A storm of questions and confusion has been kicked up by Conor McGregor's tweet announcing his retirement from MMA. Nobody seems to have any solid answers as to why the young and very wealthy Irish star would suddenly hang up his gloves, though there are more than a couple of theories kicking around...
1. Communication breakdown
One reason behind Conor's withdrawal centers around a rumored behind-the-scenes conflict with UFC bosses. Although both McGregor and his Zuffa employers have always denied any differences, UFC president Dana White did cite Conor's refusal to attend UFC 200 promotional events in Las Vegas this week as the reason for him being pulled from the July 9th card. However, why the Irishman refused to carry out his promotional duties remains a mystery.
What can be said for certain is that, despite being perhaps the best in the business when it comes to promoting himself and his fights, McGregor doesn't love his consistently packed media schedule.
"You would not understand the amount of adversity I had to conquer to make it to (UFC 194)," McGregor said in the March edition of Fighters Only. "You don't understand the amount of cities I traveled to and the world tours I went on, the amount of times I felt like I was a monkey locked in a cage in the zoo and they feed me a banana and tell me to dance."
2. Money matters
Another layer to consider in any potential McGregor-UFC fallout is the fact that, as he has made clear on numerous occasions, McGregor loves numbers â€“ especially when those numbers relate to his bank account. And if the numbers the UFC are putting up in exchange for his promotional services have been deemed unsatisfactory, it's not unreasonable to think that's something Conor would pull the plug over.
The fact Conor was entering UFC 200 on the back of his first Octagon defeat (a submission loss to Nate Diaz at UFC 196) means little in terms of his draw and global popularity. However, it's rare for any athlete to see their numbers rise after a setback, which may have led both parties to disagree over potential pay-per-viewÂ rewards in terms of the July anniversary event.
Whatever the case, there's no denying that McGregor's name being attached to UFC 200 would have played a big part in making it the most successful event in the promotion's history, and with his withdrawal it will take a very special replacement in order to prevent the numbers dropping too drastically. Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones 2, anyone? Or how about Robbie Lawler vs. Georges St Pierre for the UFC welterweight title?
3. WWE switch
If numbers are McGregor's biggest concern, maybe the picture is a little broader than just his UFC negotiations. What if the much-sought-after 27-year-old division-hopping fighter has simply received a better offer? Maybe that offer came from World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). It's a bit of a long-shot, but it's worth considering. After all, if Brock Lesnar and CM Punk (TBC) can come one way, surely there's an avenue to go in the opposite direction.
The possibility of a move to pro wrestling for McGregor may sound crazy, but then less than 24 hours ago so did the idea of him retiring from MMA. And considering the fact that some of the most recently-followed accounts on his Twitter are WWE figureheads Triple H, Stephanie McMahon and Shane McMahon, who's to say the always ambitious McGregor hasn't been in talks with pro wrestling's biggest promotion?
4. Reality check
If money isn't the significant factor in 'The Notorious' calling it a day, perhaps there's some personal reason for his big decision. There is no escaping the fact that, less than a fortnight ago, Conor witnessed first-hand the ultimate price an athlete can pay for participating in contact sports.Â
On April 9th, McGregor was ringside at an event in Dublin to watch SBG Ireland teammate Charlie Ward take on Portugal's Joao Carvalho. After losing via TKO, Carvalho was rushed to hospital and tragically passed away just two days later. McGregor posted a heartfelt message on Carvalho's tragic passing the next day via social media.
He wrote: "We are just men and women doing something we love in the hope of a better life for ourselves and our families. Nobody involved in combat sports of any kind wants to see this. It is such a rare occurrence that I don't know how to take this."
Of course, it's all speculation at this point. But it's entirely possible that seeing something so tragic â€“ no matter how rare an occurrence in MMA â€“ has caused Conor to rethink his career path and put his health first.
More details on McGregor's retirement and the reasons behind it are expected to be revealed within the coming days. Stay tuned to fightersonlymag.com orÂ follow @FightersOnly on Twitter for updates.