NEW YORK • Mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Conor McGregor pleaded guilty on Thursday as part of a deal with prosecutors to resolve charges over an April melee at the Barclays Centre arena.
McGregor, dressed in a navy suit and striped tie, was stony-faced throughout the court proceedings. He will avoid prison as a result of his agreement, which calls for him to serve five days of community service, attend an anger management programme and pay for the damages he caused.
Outside the Brooklyn courthouse, he thanked prosecutors and the judge for letting him “move forward”. The visibly relieved fighter added: “I want to say to my friends, my family, my fans – thank you for the support.”
A small crowd of fans cheered as he headed for his car.
“Now it’s about getting back to business,” said his manager, Audie Attar.
The 30-year-old brash Irish star, nicknamed “The Notorious”, had been charged with assault, criminal mischief and other crimes for his role in the brawl that left two people injured.
He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, a violation, which will not result in a criminal record. This will not affect his immigration status or his ability to fight, according to his defence lawyer, Bruce Maffeo.
Video footage, which went viral, appeared to show McGregor and his entourage in an underground parking area smashing windows on a bus filled with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighters who were at the arena to publicise an upcoming UFC event.
Cian Cowley, another Irish fighter charged in the incident, also pleaded guilty on Thursday.
The UFC, the sport’s premier organising body, said one fighter was hit by a dolly thrown through a window, while another suffered a cut to his eye after the glass shattered.
At the time of the melee, McGregor was angry that the UFC had stripped him of the lightweight title, according to profanity-laced messages he posted on Twitter.
The UFC took away the title after McGregor decided not to defend it, choosing instead to fight the undefeated Floyd Mayweather in a highly lucrative boxing match.
Mayweather’s pay-per-view victory garnered more than US$600 million (S$800 million) in revenue, making it the second-biggest bout of all time.
McGregor is ranked fourth on the Forbes list of the world’s highest-paid athletes, with an estimated wealth of US$99 million, behind Mayweather and footballers Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
McGregor’s plea bargain paves his way back to the UFC octagon where, after some underwhelming pay-per-view cards, promoters will be eager to see their biggest star return.
His next fight could be against either lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, Canadian great Georges St Pierre or Californian Nate Diaz, who remains the only man to have beaten McGregor in the octagon.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE