For better or worse, Conor McGregor has never been one to shy away from speaking his mind. Whether there are a dozen microphones in front of him at a press conference or simply a keyboard in front of him at home, the MMA superstar craves attention, which is why many believe he continues to retire and then unretire. It’s happened on numerous occasions now but the first one actually had a little more behind it.
Back on April 19, 2016, Conor McGregor announced his retirement from UFC for the first time. The announcement came about six weeks after his loss to Nate Diaz and some thought that might have something to do with it. But, in reality, there was much more at play at that time.
That announcement actually had more to do with what happened 10 days before his retirement tweet when his friend and teammate, fellow Irishman Charlie Ward, pummeled Portuguese fighter Joao Carvalho so badly in a fight in Dublin that the latter needed emergency brain surgery and died two days later.
Eaten away by guilt that he’d helped train a fighter who killed a man, Conor McGregor shut down for a time and purposely shied away from the media and the spotlight, which certainly isn’t like him.
Conor McGregor was sitting at ringside when Charlie Ward fought Joao Carvalho
Conor McGregor has always been very supportive of other Irish fighters and it was no different with Charlie Ward. McGregor was already one of the most popular fighters in the world when Ward made his professional debut in 2015 and the UFC legend was happy to help his fellow countryman.
Charlie Ward lost his first pro fight to John Phillips in March 2015 via second-round knockout but came back strong that August in his welterweight debut, earning a unanimous-decision victory over Ciaran Daly. He didn’t fight again until the following spring but it was a fight that would change his life forever, a fight that would haunt Conor McGregor.
On April 9, 2016, at Total Extreme Fighting 1 in Dublin, Ward took on Joao Carvalho with McGregor sitting at ringside to support his teammate and training partner. What he witnessed was a brutal brawl in which Carvalho took more than 40 hard shots to the head over the course of two-plus rounds until referee Mariusz Domasat finally stopped the fight, giving Ward the win via TKO. But nobody knew just how bad things would get.
Conor McGregor gave an interview following the match saying the referee should have stopped the fight earlier
Following the bout, Conor McGregor gave an interview (seen above) saying that while he was happy for his teammate, the fight should have been stopped earlier as Carvalho had taken quite a bit of punishment. The referee has defended his decision to continue the fight since the day it happened.
Shortly after the fight, Carvalho was rushed to a nearby hospital and underwent emergency brain surgery as a result of the injuries sustained during the fight. He died in the intensive care unit two days later, sending shockwaves throughout the world of mixed martial arts. The death was ruled an accident and no discipline was given to Charlie Ward. But the incident hit Conor McGregor very hard, prompting his first retirement.
The ‘Notorious’ one felt guilty that he ‘helped train a guy to kill someone’
10 days after watching Charlie Ward beat Joao Carvalho, Conor McGregor announced his retirement. Again, this was just six weeks after his loss to Nate Diaz and many thought that it was just a negotiation tactic with UFC to get a bigger payday for the rematch. But McGregor, who shut down and stopped talking to the media for a period of time, later told Men’s Health (h/t Daily Mail) that he had a tough time processing the incident that occurred with his teammate.
“How do I feel? How would you feel?
“It’s f—-d up. I wasn’t just watching that fight. I helped train a guy to kill someone, and then someone wound up dying.
“This is a f—ing dangerous game. People call it a sport, but it’s fighting. I’m just making sure it ain’t me. And that’s f—-d up.
“Damn, I still can’t believe that kid is dead.”Conor McGregor
Conor McGregor obviously didn’t stay retired. He went on to defeat Nate Diaz in their rematch that September and has “retired” twice more since then.
As for Charlie Ward, he had two fights in UFC (and was knocked out in both) before being released by the promotion but has continued his career for Bellator, posting a 5-1 record in six fights.