If all went according to the UFC’s plans, this week was supposed to unfold in a dramatically different way for Conor McGregor and the company.
According to UFC sources, the promotion was close to coming to terms with McGregor on a new contract this week, though several stumbling blocks remained.
Regardless, UFC brass were hopeful they would be able to finalize a new deal with the Irish superstar and thus announce his long-awaited return at the 25th anniversary press conference Friday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
In fact, once Tony Ferguson was forced to withdraw due to a knee injury from his UFC 223 fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov on Sunday, a plan was floated to remove Khabib Nurmagomeov from the card and have him face Conor McGregor later this year.
The UFC ultimately decided against that idea and moved ahead with booking Max Holloway vs. Nurmagomedov.
Once that fight was booked, another plan discussed was to book Conor McGregor vs. Rafael dos Anjos for the interim welterweight title in the spring, though McGregor and the UFC had to come to terms on a new contract first.
So while McGregor did eventually fly to Brooklyn in hopes of defending his friend Artem Lobov after Lobov was cornered by Nurmagomedov and members of his team on Tuesday, he was also coming in good faith to attempt to finalize his new contract and his return fight.
“We were actually working on a deal and a new plan for him,” UFC president Dana White said on Friday’s episode of “Get Up!” on ESPN.
Of course, those plans were scrapped once McGregor and members of his team were caught on camera vandalizing a minibus following Thursday’s UFC 223 media day, which led to McGregor and SBG teammate Cian Cowley getting arrested later that evening and charged with multiple misdemeanor assault and criminal mischief charges.
McGregor and Cowley posted bail on Friday and are planning on returning to Ireland in the coming days. They are due back in court on June 14. McGregor has retained veteran litigator Jim Walden to represent him in the case.
So, as the week wraps up, McGregor’s new deal is now on ice, his next fight remains unknown, dos Anjos vs. Colby Covington was finally announced, though moved to UFC 225 in Chicago, and someway, somehow, Nurmagomedov ended up getting booked against New York’s own Al Iaquinta after Holloway was deemed medically unfit to fight by the New York State Athletic Commission and attempts to book Nurmagomedov against Anthony Pettis and Paul Felder fell through.
A week unlike any in UFC history — for many of the wrong reasons — had great potential to actually end on the highest of notes with the face of the sport making his triumphant return.
Unfortunately for all involved, that return will now have to wait.