UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor. Raymond Spencer/INPHO
come together

Conor McGregor's outlook on a UFC fighters' union has changed since last year

“I feel it is important to bunch together and support each other.”

CONOR McGREGOR IS in a position where he doesn’t need a union to represent his interests in business dealings with the UFC.

Having taken just three years to become the biggest and highest-earning star in MMA’s premier organisation, McGregor is doing just fine on that front.

In June, the UFC featherweight champion featured (in 85th place) on Forbes’ list of the world’s 100 highest-paid athletes, having taken in $22 million in the previous 12 months.

But the reality for the majority of his colleagues on the UFC roster is that their cheques for each fight will never exceed five figures — a bone of contention which was a catalyst for the announcement of the establishment of the Professional Fighters Association [PFA] earlier this week.

“The scales have been tipped in favour of the UFC for too long. It is time for the fighters — the ones responsible for the UFC’s success — to receive their equal share,” read a PFA statement.

The need for fighters to unionise has long been a talking point in MMA, but when McGregor was asked about the issue on 8 July last year, his response was dismissive of the idea: “I handle my own business and my business is good, so handle your business.”

However, McGregor’s stance on the issue now appears to have changed. The PFA’s establishment was raised with the Dubliner on Friday at a press conference in Las Vegas.

“Many fighters are not in a great situation,” McGregor said. “I am blessed with the situation I am in. I have worked very hard for this. I have come in and I have put in the work to be in the situation I am in.

But it’s not nice to see my peers — some of my peers, not all of them; some of them do deserve to be in that [situation] because they’re not at that level — but I feel it is important to bunch together and support each other. It’s a dangerous, crazy business we are in. We get in and risk everything. I have witnessed first-hand how these fighters risk it all.

“Maybe in the future. Right now, I’ve got to focus on myself. That might be selfish but this is the position I am in right now. I have a lot going on. I’ve got to focus on my own self right now. But in the future, maybe I will help spearhead something like that if it is presented correctly. I wouldn’t just jump in if it wasn’t going to be done right.”

While McGregor clearly pointed out that being part of a fighters’ union is not in his immediate plans, his willingness to be involved “in the future” is certainly significant, with the 28-year-old clearly more open-minded on the topic than he was 13 months ago.

What are the reasons for his change in outlook? Well, at the time, McGregor was three days away from his debut as a pay-per-view headliner and his first chance to get his hands on a UFC belt, so he still had some personal goals to accomplish.

Also, as he referenced on Friday, perhaps the death of Portuguese fighter Joao Carvalho in Dublin in April has caused him to have a different view on the risks involved in the sport and the extent to which they should be rewarded. Or maybe it’s down to his recent dispute with the UFC, which saw him pulled from last month’s UFC 200 card.

Nevertheless, the support and involvement of such a high-profile fighter with McGregor’s influence could be a key ingredient in the potential success of such a union.

Asked if it would take fighters of his “name and level” to make it work, McGregor — who takes on Nate Diaz this Saturday night in the main event at UFC 202 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas — responded: “Yeah, of course.”

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