First off, we don’t know if this means anything. Back in 2016, McGregor similarly, out of nowhere, used Twitter as a platform to announce his retirement. Of course, this turned out to be absolutely nothing and McGregor came back better than ever.
This time may be different, however. And there are reasons to believe it will be. McGregor is a much richer man these days after a massive payday in a boxing match with Floyd Mayweather. The process led to McGregor taking a long time off from the UFC, and likely mentally checking out. The impact was obvious in his eventual return, when he was dominated by Khabib Nurmagomedov.
While not every opponent is Nurmagomedov, there is a real concern McGregor can ever compete at the level he once did. Ronda Rousey was unable to recover after a bad loss and other interests came about. All things considered, it would not be seen as foolish for McGregor to walk away; McGregor is reportedly planning to focus on his whiskey company after his retirement, and came out of the Mayweather fight with a substantial purse. But if it is the case that McGregor never returns to the UFC, there is no denying the UFC should be terrified.
The UFC is not currently equipped for life after McGregor. They have made it as hard as ever to purchase expensive fights now that it has to be done through ESPN+. Losing McGregor would also mean losing McGregor’s large fanbase. For all the genius of Dana White, he has not created a new mainstream star after McGregor. Rousey is gone and Jon Jones doesn’t move the needle like that despite being arguably the best to ever do it.
Not having McGregor leaves the UFC desperately needing a few fights from Brock Lesnar. Whether that happens or not, the former would still be a steep fall from the interest McGregor brings to the octagon. Like with McGregor’s retirement, Lesnar’ return is a major unknown.
Maybe McGregor will fool us again. Maybe people aren’t buying this one at all this time. The smart bet would even be that he will fight once again in the UFC at some point. But there should be caution there. This is not 2016. McGregor doesn’t need the UFC like he once did.