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Conor McGregor’s Shock Retirement Robs UFC of Its Most Bankable Figure

UFC 194: Aldo vs. McGregorUFC 194: Aldo vs. McGregor
"I’ve decided to retire from the sport formally known as ‘Mixed Martial Art’," the 30-year-old Irishman announced on Twitter, TuesdaySteve Marcus—Getty Images

Former Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight and lightweight champion Conor McGregor says he’s retiring from mixed martial arts, an announcement that — if it holds — would rob the UFC of their most marketable fighter.

“I’ve decided to retire from the sport formally known as ‘Mixed Martial Art’ today,” the 30-year-old Irishman announced, according to a post on his Twitter feed. The statement comes as a shock from the Irish former champion, who earlier this month told a Chicago television station he was in negotiations for a return to the UFC as soon as July.

McGregor previously had a two-year hiatus from mixed martial arts, which began with a disagreement over money and included a dip into boxing where he took a mega-fight against Floyd Mayweather.

McGregor’s return to the Octagon last year against Khabib Nurmagomedov was a business success if a sporting loss. The fight in Las Vegas was one of the most lucrative mixed martial arts events ever held, with about 2.4 million pay-per-view buys, according to Dave Meltzer, the veteran fighting and wrestling reporter. McGregor, however, suffered a submission loss and hasn’t fought since.

Ever the negotiator, McGregor has retired before amid breakdowns in contract talks. In 2016, McGregor said he’d “decided to retire young,” but ultimately returned for future fights.

Yet UFC President Dana White suggested this retirement could be more final. “If I was him, I would retire, too,” he said in a text message comment to Yahoo Sports, noting McGregor’s Proper No. Twelve Irish whiskey and other business lines are around to occupy his time. “He has accomplished incredible things in this sport. I am so happy for him and I look forward to seeing him be as successful outside of the Octagon as he was in it.”