Dana White recently spoke more about the negotiations between Conor McGregor, and confirmed that one of the sticking points was indeed card placement. According to the UFC President, he wanted it on the co-main event slot, with a title fight to headline.
“Every time I deal with Conor there’s always something to deal with, but we get it figured out. We were gonna do - the fight that was going to be on the card with him was probably going to be the heavyweight championship,” White said (transcribed by MMA Mania). “Should that be the co-main event?”
Host Robbie Fox then replied to say yes, it should happen.
”Well, the more people I hear it from, the fans and the media and all this s—t, if I end up putting Conor McGregor not as a champion in the main event, I guess I won’t have to listen to any bulls—t, will I?” White replied. “Everybody would go mental and nuts and chirping ‘Oh, you get favoritism.’
”Conor McGregor is not the champion right now,” White said. “He’s ranked number 2 right now.
”The Diaz fight? Yeah, that’s probably not going to happen,” White said. “But I would like to see him back on the [July] card.”
White also explained his reasoning for pushing the co-main event slot issue on a separate appearance at UFC Unfiltered.
“We’ve done a couple of fights where a championship fight wasn’t a main event, and it wasn’t very great. Didn’t work out very good,” White said.
”The reality is it’s not really what we do, but the media has been telling me they wanna see it, the fans have been saying just do it, so ... we’ll see what happens.”
To me, there seems to be a big piece from this entire co-main event story that is missing. Maybe there’s more to it than simply “favoritism” or bad optics from fans, as White’s reasoning doesn’t make much sense.
First of, it’s a blatant lie that PPVs without a title fight “wasn’t very great,” as the two Diaz vs McGregor bouts were both non-title welterweight bouts that broke records for the company. Even the last non-title fight PPV headliner before that did very well for them, with Nick Diaz vs Anderson Silva reportedly selling 650,000 PPVs.
Any McGregor headlined event at this point is guaranteed to be a financial success, so if it’s not about PPV buys, is it really just about fear of being seen to have “favoritism”? If that’s such a problem, couldn’t they always just stack this card with compelling contender bouts, and put Daniel Cormier’s heavyweight title defense on the next pay-per-view?
White’s reasoning and arguments does not hold water, so what’s really holding up negotiations?
Could it be McGregor’s legal issues? Maybe, but it could simply be a money issue too. McGregor seems to renegotiate his contract after each bout, and while he does deserve bigger pay with how much he brings in to the company, the UFC isn’t really incentivized to do that these days. With the UFC’s new PPV deal with ESPN+ giving them far more leverage, they don’t quite need to rely on his drawing power — or cave in to demands — as much as they did in the past.