Is the Conor McGregor Brand Still Focused on Fighting?

Chad Dundas@@chaddundasMMA Lead WriterJanuary 11, 2018

LAS VEGAS, NV - AUGUST 25:  Conor McGregor speaks to the media during a news conference after Mayweather's 10th-round TKO victory in their super welterweight boxing match on August 26, 2017 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Conor McGregor rented out an amusement park this week.

If the absentee UFC lightweight champion's Instagram can be believed, McGregor paid to close down Funderland Dublin on Monday so he and his inner circle could hold a private party at the place described on its website as "Ireland's largest Christmas theme park."

From the look of it, a merry time was had by all. That included the champ, who appeared as relaxed as ever while trying not to get ice cream on his $2,000-plus Gucci tracksuit:

The entire Funderland display was extremely on-message for McGregor at the moment. As the 29-year-old king of combat sports' latest sabbatical from the Octagon creeps up on a whopping 14 months, promoters, fans and potential future opponents all continue to fret over when—or if—he might deign to return.

Yet McGregor appears completely unperturbed, and a string of recent public moves makes it unclear how focused he is on any sort of comeback.

These days, the UFC champ's social media feed makes him look more like some sort of strange luxury lifestyle brand than a professional fighter.

A glance at his recent Twitter and Instagram timelines shows more posts of McGregor mean-mugging next to private jets, toting snakeskin suitcases and tinkering with his new Cartier lighter than anything else. Sure, there are some gym snapshots sprinkled in there, too, but mostly McGregor appears interested in flaunting his burgeoning wealth in the wake of his August 2017 boxing match against Floyd Mayweather Jr.

This obviously is not a new development. Living the good life has always been one of McGregor's things.

But, at this point, is it his only thing?

McGregor at the opening of a documentary about his life.
McGregor at the opening of a documentary about his life.PAUL FAITH/Getty Images

The more time that passes—and the more videos we watch of McGregor drag racing through the streets of Dublin—the more we have to wonder if Bleacher Report's Jeremy Botter was right all along.

Maybe McGregor is never coming back to the UFC.

When questions began to surface just after New Years about whether he would return to the Octagon to face top contender Khabib Nurmagomedov or interim champ Tony Ferguson, the swaggering Irishman responded with a tweet that he "didn't give a bollox" and also referenced the signature line of whiskey he expects to make him a boatload more cash during 2018 (NSFW language in tweets):

A few days later, UFC President Dana White indicated the world's largest MMA promotion might have to consider stripping McGregor of his lightweight title—just as it did his featherweight strap in November 2016—if the two parties can't come to an agreement soon.

It's already largely speculated that McGregor's ongoing contract negotiations could stretch on so long that Ferguson will end up defending his interim title against Nurmagomedov.

Then, maybe McGregor will fight the winner.

Maybe.

But last we heard, McGregor's stipulations for a new UFC deal included a partial ownership stake in the company, which UFC brass so far appears loath to give up. Now, perhaps White's patience is wearing thin.

"We can't let this thing go on forever and not give other guys the opportunity," the UFC boss told Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole. "... Conor has done very well, he's made a lot of money and if he decides he doesn't want to fight again for however long, that's up to him. That's his choice and his decision, but the belt has to move on and we have to figure some stuff out here in the next couple months."

McGregor and Dana White during the lead-up to Mayweather-McGregor.
McGregor and Dana White during the lead-up to Mayweather-McGregor.Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

On Monday, longtime head coach John Kavanagh tried to assure the world that McGregor was back in the gym and indeed working toward a return.

"A lot of stuff outside of fighting was going on in his life and he seems to be getting the hang of all that," Kavanagh told BBC Sport. "Now he's back training almost every day and I think 2018 will be another big year for us. Exactly what that is, I don't know yet, but the plan is forming."

McGregor himself has made no such assurances and gives no indication that he's formulating such a plan. He's said from the beginning that he wants to return to fighting eventually, but the details remain sketchy, the timeline foggy and his options too numerous to nail any one thing down.

Kavanagh has said he'll argue fiercely that his star pupil's next fight be in MMA, but the specter of another boxing match, against Manny Pacquiao or Paulie Malignaggi, still looms.

McGregor throws a right hand at Mayweather during their boxing match.
McGregor throws a right hand at Mayweather during their boxing match.Isaac Brekken/Associated Press

All the while, The Notorious seems dead set on living up to his nickname as he carries on with his many leisure pursuits.

In October, McGregor apologized after being caught on camera using an anti-gay slur to try to console teammate Artem Lobov after a loss to Andre Fili.

In November, he slapped a ringside official and got into a scuffle with referee Marc Goddard after he jumped into the cage at a Bellator MMA event in Ireland to celebrate with victorious training partner Charlie Ward.

Most troublingly, on Nov. 30, reports emerged that McGregor had gotten sideways with Irish underworld figures after allegedly striking a gangland associate during a barroom altercation. Even as rumors swirled that shadowy figures were demanding McGregor pay a hefty ransom to get out of the jam, he was late for a court date on a small-time traffic violation.

McGregor showed up for court wearing—guess what?—another tracksuit, and as he sped away from questions about his predicament with an Irish criminal organization in—guess what?—a high-priced sports car, he quipped: "Come and get me. Come and get me."

None of this escaped the notice of Mayweather, who took time to needle McGregor on Twitter this week (NSFW language):

So, where is all this going?

In the past, MMA observers have proclaimed McGregor a "genius" for the way he's steadily promoted himself into a bigger and bigger star.

But none of the above smacks of genius behavior.

None of it paints a picture of a guy who's just about to start training hard for his big return.

What if summer 2018 rolls around and there's still no sign of McGregor?

How long can we continue to consider him an active fighter while he goes on treating the world as his own private Funderland?

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