The former two-weight world champion will make his second appearance in the Brooklyn courts on Thursday – his first step towards his inevitable return to the UFC octagon.
It’s easy to dismiss Conor McGregor and the vice-like grip he still holds over the UFC given his absence of late.
A large and rather vocal percentage of the sport’s fanbase have been revelling in the fact that they finally have some weight to all of their ‘anti-McGregor’ arguments and in truth, the man has become increasingly difficult to defend.
His out-of-octagon antics reached a new high – or in this case low – when he involved himself in an ugly skirmish during a media event in promotion for April’s UFC 223.
We all know what went down outside that now-infamous fighter bus and with the Irishman now set to make his long-awaited return to the Brooklyn courts on Thursday, many are rejoicing at the fact that he will finally answer for what he has done.
And while he will most certainly be punished for his inexcusable actions on April 5, when all is said and done and he walks out through those courtroom doors, it won’t take long for us to realise that the circus is coming back to town.
Conor McGregor will fight in the UFC this year.
Early last month, I spoke to Dmitriy Shakhnevich of The Fight Lawyer podcast to get a sense of what to expect from the original court day just prior to it taking place.
Dmitriy works as a criminal and civil lawyer in Brooklyn and with his aforementioned podcast, The Fight Lawyer, he delves into topics relating to combat sports, while also bringing his expertise in the field of law to the forefront.
Using both the input offered by Shakhnevich and some of the hints we’ve gotten along the way in recent times, here is your definitive guide to McGregor’s day in court on Thursday as well as why he will fight inside the UFC this year.
How serious are the charges levelled against Conor McGregor?
DS: The charges are fairly serious. His most serious charge, as far as I understand, is a D Felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison. But that’s upon conviction at trial. This case is very unlikely to go to trial. Thus, my belief is that a plea deal will be worked out to avoid jail time.
A plea deal? What shape could that take and what are McGregor’s options?
DS: It does look like, as I predicted, Conor will likely be entering a guilty plea in this case and avoiding jail time. In my view, there are three options here.
#1 – Conor will enter a plea to a misdemeanor (one of the lower offences with which he’s charged) – He’ll have to plead guilty to a misdemeanor, which is a crime in New York State and thus, be left with a criminal record for the rest of his life.
#2 – It’ll be what’s called a conditional plea. – This means that he will likely plead guilty to a misdemeanor (crime) initially and then have to satisfy certain conditions, such as community service, course-taking (e.g., anger management) and the payment of fines and/or restitution.
If he satisfies those conditions, then he can show proof of that to the Court and his case will be reduced to a non-criminal disposition (again, called a “violation,” of the law). But even with the first option (the straight misdemeanor), he will likely still have to satisfy certain conditions, as mentioned above.
#3 – He’ll be allowed to enter a plea to a straight violation. This basically means Conor will never have a criminal record at all. That would be the best option for him. But again, certain relatively demanding conditions would likely have to be satisfied in order for that plea to go through.
So how do each of these plea deals work as far as his fighting future – specifically on US soil – is concerned?
DS: The most important thing here is to preserve his immigration status and ability to travel (because he needs that to make money), and all of those pleas would likely satisfy that requirement.
What are the worst and best case scenarios realistically?
DS: The worst case scenario is that he goes to trial, loses and is sentenced to jail time. The best-case scenario is a plea that leaves him without a criminal record, with some combination of monetary penalties, community service and maybe some courses to be taken, such as anger management perhaps.
Are the injuries that both Michael Chiesa and Ray Borg sustained on the day likely to haunt Conor in the future?
DS: They can also sue him and try to get money out of him in various forms.
Importantly, he will have to admit wrongdoing in one form or another. If he does that, that will expose him to civil liability. That means that if he is then sued civilly (for money), he will likely have to pay without question.
That’s the way that the law works (admitting wrongdoing in a criminal case opens the floodgates if a civil case is commenced). While money may not be the first thing on his mind, it’s important that Conor and his team keep that in mind, which I’m sure they will.
Dmitriy has worked extensively in the Brooklyn courts and as I mentioned before, his own background with the fight-game allows him to view this case with a unique perspective that very few in his occupation can provide.
So let’s assume things go as the Fight Lawyer predicts and McGregor walks out of that courtroom on Thursday with his freedom to fight in the States intact.
Is the relationship between Conor and the UFC damaged beyond repair, though?
Believe me, it might have seemed like that in the immediate aftermath of the UFC 223 media day debacle but as these two interviews with UFC president Dana White will show – the promotion’s stance on the ‘Notorious’ softened dramatically when those dollar signs floated into view.
Here’s a transcript of White speaking to the media just hours after Conor caused a scene on UFC 223’s fight-week.
“I haven’t talked to my crew but we are disgusted with him right now, completely disgusted.
“I don’t want to talk to Conor McGregor right now. It’s disgusting and I don’t think anyone is going to be a huge Conor McGregor fan after this.
“I don’t know if he’s on drugs or what his deal is but to come and do this, you’re talking about a guy who has a baby. You have a son at home!”
Jump forward to early June during the buildup to UFC 225 and the famously hot-headed UFC president has cooled off significantly on the subject of his biggest cash-cow.
No doubt seeing the financial gains that come with getting McGregor back in there, White was all smiles at the mention of the Irishman – and smirked excitedly while making it clear to the interviewer that the eventual showdown between him and Khabib Nurmagomedov is the fight to make.
“We’ll see what happens with Conor McGregor, he’s got to handle his court stuff. Khabib versus Conor is the fight to make, the fight that makes sense, so we’ll see.”
Is there pressure on Dana and co. to get their man back in there ASAP, though? And does this give Conor even more power than he already had?
Money talks and all things considered, the UFC is having a pretty bad year in that sense.
UFC 226, the promotion’s biggest event – one that featured one of the biggest and most eagerly anticipated super-fights of all-time – reportedly reached a measly 400k PPV buys, making it the year’s most successful fight-card from a financial perspective.
Conor has been a part of five PPV’s in the last three years that have broken the 1 million mark – including his showdown with Floyd Mayweather, which brought in 4.3 million.
Dana is famous for two things, not showing his hand too early and blatantly lying to the media.
His immediate response to the McGregor question in recent times has been something along the lines of ‘Conor has his own issues to sort out, then we’ll see’, so when Thursday falls into the rearviewmirror – expect a much more solid update on the negotiations that have been most definitely happening with his biggest star behind the scenes.
The question now, is how the money will be split.
But Conor could have fought before this whole mess and he didn’t, he sat on the sidelines and allowed both of his titles to be taken away.
True. But I think McGregor is slowly realising how meaningless UFC belts are – especially nowadays.
You may not agree with him on that, but it’s a perfectly understandable way of thinking when you consider the money this guy can make on the merits of his name alone.
After making close to $100 million in his August matchup with Floyd Mayweather – Conor’s options and above all else, his chances of rivalling the gargantuan PPV numbers of that matchup were slim, at best.
Fighting Nate Diaz is always an option but with Khabib and Tony Ferguson – he had two rivals who simply weren’t the stars that could make the type of money necessary to rush him away from his self-imposed hiatus at that time.
Not to mention he had a newborn son in Conor Jr. to fill his time.
So what has changed?
Well, most importantly, Khabib is better known within the mainstream world as a result of both his performances inside the octagon and him being the focal point of McGregor’s attack on the fighter bus.
At 26-0, he’s the most dangerous matchup available to anyone in the UFC right now and that, coupled with their ever-blossoming rivalry makes the timing on this one perfect.
Conor’s detractors will say that he is scared, he is retired and he has no interest in fighting.
It’s a frankly ridiculous viewpoint to be honest, but for the sake of this article, I’ll humour it.
If there’s one thing that we’ve learned about McGregor over the years it’s that he does not enjoy being rendered powerless and he has an ingrained drive to prove his doubters wrong.
Some of his most fiery altercations have come as a result of his frustrations in a heated moment and some of his proudest from times when he conquered adversity.
Right now, those who are mocking and doubting him are at an all-time high and to be honest, I just don’t see the man who hobbled through the T-Mobile Arena backstage area repeatedly chanting ‘doubt me now’ to settle for that being the case.
Whether you love him or hate him, Conor McGregor will return to the UFC octagon as soon as he can and when this entire mess is cleared up on Thursday – expect a frenzy to begin as we edge closer to the biggest fight in MMA history.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena