Conor “The Notorious One” McGregor (25-4 MMA, 11-2 UFC) is making his much-awaited return to the Octagon against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (36-13 MMA, 23-10 UFC) in UFC 246, scheduled on the 19th of January. Conor was last seen in action against Khabib Nurmagomedov back in UFC 229, which went on to become the biggest MMA PPV event with 2.4mil buys. However, that event is better known for its aftermath rather than the records it broke that night. Both the fighters were handed their retrospective bans after a fight ensued between both the camps and finally, after over 14 months away, Conor is making his return.
McGregor, during his Moscow press conference, indicated that he wanted to start 2020 off with a bang and hoped to stay active with at least a couple of fights after his January comeback. A few questions were asked when the UFC confirmed a 170lb bout between Conor and Cowboy. Conor simply indicated that it would be a 155lb bout without the weight-cutting. However, Khabib didn’t like this idea and said Conor needs to make 155lbs and win 10 fights in a row before he’s even considered for a title shot. This fight against Cowboy could very well dictate how Conor’s 2020 moves forward.
What’s At Stake
Let’s start by considering what’s on offer for both the fighters if they were to win this fight. Dana White confirmed that Conor would be in for a lightweight title shot if he managed to get past Cowboy but it’s also fair to say Cowboy won’t be considered for the same if he manages to best Conor in UFC 246. Donald Cerrone is coming off consecutive defeats to 155-pound top contenders Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje. A victory against Conor would keep him at the top but it’s certain that it won’t result in a title shot. Still, as we’ve learnt in the past, never say never in the world of MMA.
The fact that Cowboy is an easy fight for Conor at the moment can be argued upon. This isn’t the same Conor we witnessed in 2015-16. He’s trying to regain his lost mojo. Having said that though, let me be very clear: Cerrone is no scrub. He’s no cupcake, on the contrary, he holds the record for the most wins and finishes in UFC history. Assuming Conor does manage to get past him, he’ll have a couple of options moving forward.
Khabib Rematch/155lb Title Fight Against Tony Ferguson
If Conor beats Cowboy, it sets him up for a title shot against the winner of Khabib vs Tony. which is supposed to play out this April. This, in my opinion, could be a very hard fight for Conor. He’s no stranger to Khabib’s wrestling credentials. Tony Ferguson, on the other hand, is a relentless cardio machine who can keep the pressure for the entire 25 mins. He can stand and strike, catch the opponent in a D’arce, and submit him, but Tony would be Conor’s best chance at reclaiming the lightweight title to be fair.
BMF Title Fight with Jorge Masvidal
Conor has made it no secret that he plans to go after Jorge Masvidal for the BMF title. This would be a massive money fight for the company. Jorge Masvidal dominated Nate Diaz during UFC 244 and he’s on a vicious run of finishing his opponents. Jorge had previously dismissed the fight with Conor saying he’s too small for him but recent speculation has it that Jorge is ready for the mega-fight with Conor. On paper, their attributes are similar. Masvidal might just be taller than Conor but they have the same reach (188cm), Masvidal, being a natural welterweight, will come in bigger on the fight night, but other than that, they are pretty evenly poised.
The 170 lb fight with Cerrone is the perfect opportunity for Conor right now, as it gives him a chance to prepare for a title shot or prepare him for a mega-fight with Masvidal. His coaches John Kavanagh and Owen Roddy have already said he looks better than ever. 2020 could very well be a big year for Conor McGregor but there’s every chance he might retire this year if the fights don’t go according to plan.
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