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Morning Report: Chael Sonnen suggests Conor McGregor may have ‘retired’ as a result of sexual assault allegations

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As you may have heard, earlier this week, Conor McGregor abruptly announced he was retiring from MMA. Most people did not put too much stock in the retirement though; after all, McGregor had done almost the exact same thing once before. But UFC President Dana White is (at least publicly) acting as if the retirement is real, and, later that day after McGregor’s announcement, the New York Times ran a report revealing that McGregor is under investigation from the Gardai (Irish police) for his potential involvement in a sexual assault case in December. McGregor’s spokesperson Karen J. Kessler released a statement shortly after the news broke, saying that McGregor’s retirement announcement was absolutely not related to the report. But Chael Sonnen isn’t buying it.

“The American Gangster” recently analyzed McGregor’s chaotic 24 hours on his YouTube channel, opining that, given the circumstances, McGregor should not have been looking to retire and suggesting that someone may have told him to step away so as not to tarnish the UFC.

“It would appear to me that if there was ever a time that you need a friend, it’s right now,” Sonnen said. “I would not think that retiring, excluding yourself, taking yourself out of something very positive, very loved, very coveted as a means of strategy while having to deal with something so tremendous, would be wise. I would think at a time like this you would keep as many friends and as many doors, and as many things open as you could.”

“The other side of that coin is that could easily tarnish the other entity. You may to come to somebody, or you have somebody come to you and go ‘Look, this is not going to be good branding, this is not going to be good timing. This is going to be a jam of the highest of levels, it is best if you step away. It is best if headlines do not come out that say ‘UFC star Conor McGregor’ fill in the blank.”

A sexual assault allegation against their biggest star is certainly a public relations disaster the UFC would like to avoid in general, but whether his retirement would minimize the blowback to the UFC at this point is questionable. That’s not to say that the UFC might not still try to separate themselves from McGregor but, Sonnen does also allow that it could be an act of generosity from McGregor to the organization that helped make him a global superstar.

“Maybe Conor in the spirit of sportsmanship (said) ‘Hey, you guys did a lot for me, I’m gonna get the hell out of your way for a little bit while I deal with this’” Sonnen said. “Or maybe somebody else came to him and said ‘Hey, separate yourself and do it now. The shoe’s gonna drop, that’s your problem…’ Something more along these lines.”

Whatever the case may be, this could not have happened at a better time for the UFC. In previous years, the company was heavily reliant on McGregor and the revenue his Pay-Per-View events drew, giving McGregor more leverage and negotiating power than any UFC fighter in history. In fact, his first “retirement” was a hardball tactic by McGregor while negotiating with the UFC about his next bout. But the UFC just signed an exclusive PPV deal with ESPN+, insulating them from the financial necessities that gave McGregor so much leverage in the past. Add that in with the allegations against McGregor, as well as his recent legal trouble and, as Sonnen puts it, now is a perfect time to get out of the Conor McGregor game for awhile.

“It’s just simply not a good time to book Conor McGregor.”


There will be leg kicks. Edson Barboza welcomes war with Justin Gaethje: ‘I’m ready for pain’.

Jeopardy. Jose Aldo ‘still can’t say’ if he’s going to fight at UFC 237 because of knee infection.

Thug. Rose Namajunas plans to be the ‘more dynamic, well-rounded fighter’ against Jessica Andrade at UFC 237.

Jorge. Jorge Masvidal addresses Leon Edwards, Ben Askren callouts: ‘What do I care to fight you or the other guy?’

Holier than thou. ONE CEO Chatri Sityodtong believes term ‘mixed martial arts’ has been ‘tainted severely by the west’.


The MMA Beat.

LFA.

Relaxing with Justin Gaethje.

Daniel Straus.

Remember Phil Nurse?

Ponzi scheme interview.

Tommy Toe Hold.


The MMA Vivisection. In-depth analysis of UFC on ESPN 2 this weekend.

The MMA Reporters. Discussing Conor, Barboza vs. Gaethje, and ONE.


Still training.

Jorge.

Ben claiming it’s all a lie.

Leon still trying.

He mad.

Good fight.

Cyborg met up with Justin Wren to do work in Africa.

Virtually identical.

USADA.


Warlley Alves (12-3) vs. Sergio Moraes (14-4-1); UFC 237, May 11.

Thiago Moises (11-3) vs. Kurt Holobaugh (17-6); UFC 237, May 11.

Tyron Woodley (19-4-1) vs. Robbie Lawler (28-13, 1 NC); UFC Minneapolis, June 29.


Thanks for reading, enjoy the fights, and see y’all on Monday.


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