On Sunday morning, McGregor told ESPN that he has lost his excitement for the sport.
“The game just does not excite me, and that’s that,” McGregor said. “All this waiting around. There’s nothing happening. I’m going through opponent options, and there’s nothing really there at the minute. There’s nothing that’s exciting me.
“They should have just kept the ball rolling. I mean, why are they pushing [Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Justin Gaethje] back to September? You know what’s going to happen in September, something else is going to happen in September, and that’s not going to happen. I laid out a plan and a method that was the right move, the right methods to go with. And they always want to balk at that and not make it happen or just drag it on. Whatever I say, they want to go against it to show some kind of power. They should have just done the fight — me and Justin for the interim title — and just kept the ball rolling.”
McGregor, 31, said he had written a draft of his retirement tweet two weeks ago and was “just tired” of the sport.
“I’m a bit bored of the game,” he told ESPN. “I’m here watching the fight. I watched the last show — the [Tyron-Woodley-Gilbert Burns] show — I watched the show tonight. I’m just not excited about the game, Ariel. I don’t know if it’s no crowd. I don’t know what it is. There’s just no buzz for me.”
This isn’t the first time McGregor, UFC’s former featherweight and lightweight champion, announced his retirement via Twitter.
He first walked away in March 2016 after deciding not to travel to the United States to take part in a news conference for his rematch against Nate Diaz. He eventually returned later that summer and defeated Diaz that August.
McGregor also retired via Twitter in April 2019 in the midst of negotiations with UFC, which were ultimately resolved, and he returned to action in January, defeating Donald Cerrone in 40 seconds.
McGregor’s return versus Cerrone was a financial success for UFC. Prior to that fight, McGregor vowed to fight three times in 2020. He was targeting his second fight to happen July 11 in Las Vegas, but the coronavirus pandemic halted those plans.
“I had my goals, my plans, the season. I had everything laid out,” McGregor said. “Obviously the world has gone bleeding bonkers at the minute. There’s f— all happening at the minute. They want to throw me up and down weights and offer me stupid fights. I don’t really give a f—. I’m over it.”
Over the past three months, McGregor has been vocal on social media about the pandemic and has been seen making huge donations to hospitals across his home country of Ireland. He has also shared videos and photos on social media of his workouts, including a video Saturday, and appears to be in fighting shape.
UFC president Dana White told reporters after UFC 250 that people have been acting strangely lately because of the pandemic. But if McGregor wants to retire, White said, then he should retire.
“Nobody is pressuring anybody to fight,” White said. “And if Conor McGregor feels he wants to retire, you know my feelings about retirement — you should absolutely do it. And I love Conor. … There’s a handful of people that have made this really fun for me. And he’s one of them.”
White said “the amount of people that I have gunning at me right now is insane,” referring to current UFC beefs with light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and star Jorge Masvidal.
“If that’s what Conor is feeling right now — Jon Jones, Jorge Masvidal, I feel you. It’s not like I’m going, ‘Holy s—, this is crazy, this is nuts,'” White said. “Nothing is crazy and nuts right now, because everything is crazy and nuts right now, on a certain level. I totally understand it and get it.”
McGregor (22-4) has just two UFC losses, one to Nurmagomedov and one against Diaz, which he avenged. “The Notorious” became the first UFC fighter to hold titles in two weight classes at the same time when he knocked out Eddie Alvarez to win the lightweight belt at UFC 205 on Nov. 12, 2016.
Following Gaethje’s win over Tony Ferguson last month at UFC 249, McGregor campaigned for a fight against UFC’s new interim lightweight champion. One problem was that McGregor couldn’t travel to the United States during the pandemic because he is currently in Ireland. To resolve this issue, not only for McGregor but for all international fighters, the promotion has been setting up what it has called “Fight Island” in an undisclosed location, and there was hope McGregor could fight there in July.
But the Gaethje fight has not materialized. UFC’s current plan is to book Nurmagomedov vs. Gaethje for the undisputed 155-pound title in September. White said earlier this week that the best path for McGregor might be to wait and face the winner of Nurmagomedov-Gaethje.
Former middleweight champion Anderson Silva challenged McGregor to a catchweight fight, which piqued McGregor’s interest, as he first said in 2018.
Sources told ESPN that McGregor’s management team has had numerous talks with UFC in the hope of securing McGregor’s next fight in July, but the two sides are currently far apart on booking plans. Sources said money isn’t an issue right now. Finding the opponent is.
“There’s nothing there for me,” McGregor said. “I’m trying to get excited. I’m trying my best. And when the Anderson one came along, I was like, yeah, s—, that’s a mad fight. And then everyone said he’s old and over the hill. I was, like, ‘What? Fighting a former light heavyweight and the middleweight GOAT, and the actual GOAT in my eyes, that’s not a rewardable fight?’ And you know, you’re actually right. It wouldn’t be rewarded. I would go in there and put him away, Ariel, and then what would happen? They’d say he’s old and he’s over the hill and he’s past his prime and all.”
In the end, it appears the lack of a clear-cut opponent or proper timeline has left McGregor feeling frustrated.
“I don’t know. It’s just crazy,” McGregor said. “I was cutting to 155, and then because I asked for 155, they wanted to show power and stomp all over me. I don’t know why they do this. But it was taken from me and then pushed back. So then I’m thinking I don’t want to be cutting if I’m fighting at 170. I have to be careful here. My body has to be correct to the weight. And then the 176 [Silva] talk. I’m just over it, man.”
McGregor’s team says he currently walks around at above 170 pounds.
The year couldn’t have started out better for McGregor. UFC’s top draw had returned to action and was poised to fight at least three times in a calendar year, which he had not done since 2016.
Now he says he’s frustrated and has decided to hit pause on his plans, choosing to focus on his family instead.
“My mother is out there picking out a beautiful home, an absolute beautiful home, her dream home,” McGregor said. “It would likely be her final home, my family’s final home for them, a retirement home. I’m very, very proud to do this, and that’s it.
“We’ll see what the future holds. But for right now, for the immediate future, 2020, all the best to it.”
ESPN’s Marc Raimondi contributed to this report.