Update April 21, 2016 – Today Conor published a statement stating he is not retired and went on record noting this clarity was being made “for USADA and for the UFC and my contract stipulations”
In what can only be described as a crazy day in the world of MMA, UFC’s featherweight champion Conor McGregor tweeted that he is retired from the sport. Shortly after UFC president Dana White made a television appearance noting McGregor was actually pulled from UFC 200, where he was scheduled to compete in a much anticipated rematch with Nate Diaz, for failing to co-operate with his promotional obligations.
Whatever the truth, the one thing that is clear is the main event for UFC 200 which has been heavily promoted is apparently no longer to be.
If McGregor is genuinely retired, a turn of events many in the MMA media don’t believe, then there are likely no legal consequences that stem from this unexpected but fairly routine announcement in the world of professional sports. He will move on, the UFC will move on, fans will move on.
If, on the other hand, this is a ploy in a story which has yet to publicly surface, there is a chance McGregor can face disciplinary action from the Nevada State Athletic Commission for failing to appear in this event if he is not truly retired.
Nevada legislation has a rarely utilized provision dealing with fighters who do not attend a bout after signing a bout agreement. Specifically NAC 467.132 holds that
“An unarmed combatant who fails to appear in a contest or exhibition in which he or she signed a bout agreement to appear, without a written excuse determined to be valid by the Commission or a certificate from a physician designated by the Commission in advance in case of physical disability, is subject to disciplinary action”
It is not clear if a bout agreement was signed but presumably the UFC would not be promoting the bout without the security of McGregor’s signature.
If that is the case the above section can, as it states, trigger “disciplinary action” from the Commission unless McGregor provides the Commission with a written excuse that they must determine to be valid.
Another interesting twist is announced retirement from the UFC now comes with further consequences thanks to the UFC/USADA Anti Doping Policy. Under the Policy USADA can test athletes for banned performance enhancing drugs until “such time as they give notice to UFC in writing of their retirement from competition“.
If the retirement is not permanent, there are consequences for athletes when they seek to return with Section 5.7.1 of the policy stating that “An Athlete who gives notice of retirement to UFC, or has otherwise ceased to have a contractual relationship with UFC, may not resume competing in UFC bouts until he/she has given UFC written notice of his.her intent to resume competing and has made him/herself available for Testing for a period of four months before returning to competition
The UFC can waive this period in “exceptional circumstances” or where “strict application of the rule would be manifestly unfair” to the athlete but at the very least this provision puts some power in the UFC’s hands if McGregor is playing games.
It is a safe bet that this story between McGregor and the UFC is far from over and new developments will surface in the coming days. Depending on what comes to light regulatory and other contractual consequences cannot be ruled out in the upcoming twists and turns of this unfolding saga.