We’ve all seen the video: Conor McGregor going ballistic on his opponent’s bus before being forcefully dragged away by security guards. He was later charged with assault and criminal mischief after turning himself in, but like any other millionaire, got off on bail.
Now the question is where he stands with UFC going forward. The organization (which is run on Dana White’s very, very tight leash) has set an extremely lenient precedent when it comes to its fighters getting in trouble with the authorities.
Jon Jones, who is still routinely fighting in UFC matches, has had a past riddled with legal accusations, most of which have been proven correct but have had little to no negative effect on his career in the ring. His career has been marked by repeated failed drug tests and doping scandals — although it may not be a scandal if your employer decidedly turns a blind eye.
Most notably, Jones pled guilty of leaving the scene of a hit-and-run which injured an innocent pregnant woman. He was sentenced to 18 months of supervised probation and community service, which he carried out. And back to the ring he went.
White expressed tepid disappointment in McGregor’s behavior the day after the incident, uncharacteristic of him given his obsession with the Irish fighter. But then, just like clockwork, he softened on his biggest star, saying that there’s “a lot worse that goes on in all the other sports.” Perhaps I haven’t been paying close enough attention, but there hasn’t been a dolly thrown through a bus window in baseball that I can remember.
In the end, for White it all comes down to the bottom line. McGregor is the UFC’s most lucrative asset, and all this buzz around him is only making him more valuable. He originally climbed his way up in the organization with his brash and unforgiving personality, his flashy suits and sunglasses, and harsh treatment of the press that’s rivaled only by White himself.
The UFC is unique among major sports in its reputation and mission. There is no guise of sportsmanship or fairness in the UFC. Conor McGregor, ranked sixth at the time, made it to the UFC Championship match for the first time by defeating a guy who barely made the top ten. McGregor’s personality is his skill, and it’s made Dana White and his friends millions of dollars.
Everything in the UFC, from its leadership to its fighters, exist in one of the most controlled money-making media environments in sports. That’s not to say that other leagues, like the NFL or the NBA, don’t exist solely to make money — when it comes down to it, they do. But this mission is much more thinly veiled in the UFC, and its virtual dictator, Dana White, gets to call every shot the way he sees it best benefitting his bottom line.
In 2010, White banned UK fighter Paul Daley from the UFC for life after he suckerpunched an opponent after a bout. Daley, a black fighter, has never accused White of racial discrimination, but has said that his ban is baffling given that it came in the middle of a dramatic rise in the UFC rankings, having just beaten the 3rd-ranked fighter the week before. Daley’s punch didn’t get him in any legal hot water, compared to McGregor’s and Jones’ criminal records that have had virtually no effect on their contracts.
Whether the disparity between White’s treatment of Daley’s and McGregor’s situations is racially charged is uncertain, but just reinforces the absolute control White has over the organization from top to bottom. Daley maintains that even before the incident, White “never really liked” him, which makes his banning less of a surprise although he remains the only fighter in UFC history to earn a lifetime ban.
Conor McGregor may face issues in the courthouse in the near future, but it’s safe to say that his future in the ring will not be damaged beyond repair.