- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 19, 2016

UFC featherweight champion and all-time trash talker Conor McGregor was pulled from the promotion’s July pay-per-view card for refusing to help promote it despite being in the headline fight, the promotion said in a statement.

The decision to cancel Mr. McGregor’s involvement in UFC 200, set for July 9 in Las Vegas, “was made by the promotion after McGregor informed UFC officials that he would not participate in any promotional activities, including a commercial shoot and press conferences,” the UFC said.

“You have to do the press conference,” UFC President Dana White said Tuesday evening in an interview on “SportsCenter,” noting that’s he has often suspended fighters for blowing off press conferences. 

Mr. McGregor was to have fought Nate Diaz, the only man to defeat him in the world’s biggest mixed martial-arts promotion.

The Tuesday evening announcement came hours after the mercurial Irish star said on Twitter out of the blue that he was retiring, causing hours of speculation about whether Mr. McGregor was pulling the fight world’s collective leg.

In a cryptic tweet, Mr. McGregor wrote, “I have decided to retire young. / Thanks for the cheese. / Catch ya’s later.”

He did not elaborate on what “young” means or whether “catch … later” means he’ll be disappearing from fighting.

Mr. McGregor rocketed to a stardom that went beyond the sport’s aficionados by not only making short work of his opponents in the actual fight but by developing a bigger-than-life persona — nominating the round he would knock out the other man, running his opponents down as bums, and similar Muhammad Ali-like stunts.

Such a persona makes puzzling a refusal to engage in promotional activities, especially since the UFC 200 main event was planned to give Mr. McGregor a shot at redemption.

But with endorsements included, Mr. McGregor has made millions and is only 27 and has stardom in hand. Reflecting both that stardom and fear of what the tweet might mean, in just 17 minutes, fight fans had retweeted the note more than 12,000 times.

Mr. McGregor lost his last UFC fight — moving up two weight divisions to take on Mr. Diaz, only to get wrestled down by the bigger, stronger man and choked into submission. He had previously won all seven of his UFC fights over three years, with only one opponent surviving to the final bell.

But knowing Mr. McGregor’s penchant for the theatrical, the MMA press and fight fans debated whether the Irishman’s tweets meant he was actually packing it in.

“Multiple sources are adamant at this time that McGregor’s tweet isn’t a joke, troll job or hoax of any kind. Reason(s) behind it is unclear,” tweeted Ariel Helwani, who was until recently the “UFC insider” for Fox Sports, which has exclusive U.S. television rights.

But Ricky Doyle at New England Sports Network called Mr. McGregor “no stranger to bringing attention upon himself, so there’s certainly a chance this could be a publicity stunt or even a joke.”

Mr. Diaz joined in the “fun,” if it be that, declaring on Twitter that “I guess my work here is done I’m retiring too.”

In what may be a hint of Mr. McGregor’s future plans — or merely an indication of expert trolling — his Twitter account recently followed several WWE executives, including Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.

At 5-feet-9 and a walking-around weight in the neighborhood of 180 pounds (his featherweight title required him to weigh in for fights at 145), it’s uncertain how even as brash a persona as Mr. McGregor would fit in with a world of 300-pound behemoths.

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