With McGregor in legal limbo, the U.F.C. will also be in a holding pattern — hopeful but uncertain about whether it can count on regular performances from the biggest star in its history.
As the case was investigated by the police in 2019 and 2020, McGregor largely disappeared from the public eye, at least by the standards of how voluminously he previously grabbed the spotlight. He announced a retirement from fighting in March 2019, only to quickly change his mind and book a fight against Donald Cerrone, who is nicknamed Cowboy, one year ago.
The run-up to that bout was the first time McGregor addressed the case, which the police were still investigating.
When he was asked about it at a pre-fight news conference, hundreds of fans in attendance booed, and the U.F.C. closed ranks around its star. Cerrone, his opponent, interrupted to say that only questions about the fight were allowed, and the U.F.C.’s president, Dana White, said McGregor had already answered the question in an interview with ESPN, the U.F.C.’s corporate media partner.
McGregor beat Cerrone decisively, then did not fight again in 2020, as the U.F.C.’s lightweight division mostly moved on without him. The power-punching Justin Gaethje emerged as a challenger, only to lose decisively to the reigning champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov, who promptly retired. Poirier, who had lost to Nurmagomedov in 2019, defeated Dan Hooker in June to catapult himself back up the lightweight rankings. Charles Oliveira put together a winning streak to become a contender.
The U.F.C. suddenly lacked a clear hierarchy in a marquee weight class,