LAS VEGAS – Can it be "notorious" if it is no longer notorious outside the octagon?
This question must be answered on Saturday night at UFC 246 when Conor McGregor returns from a 15-month layoff to fight Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone at the main event in the T-Mobile Arena. ESPN + PPV will stream the main card live.
McGregor, the first two-time UFC champion and self-proclaimed biggest star, says he is a new man who has re-engaged in MMA after a turbulent year in which he has spent too much time entering and leaving courtrooms be. From smashing a cell phone to being beaten in an Irish pub, McGregor made headlines about everything wrong, including a reported investigation into a sexual assault case in Ireland.
After apologizing for his actions, McGregor appears to be more humble and grateful for what he has when he goes into an important welterweight fight with the well-trained Cerrone. He has changed from boastful to respectful.
"I am very honored and happy to be back here in the US and here in Las Vegas," said McGregor during a press conference on Wednesday at the Palms. "I had so many great moments here. My life has changed here in America. I am very grateful for this country and it is a great honor for me to be here and to perform for the people. Come here and entertain these people is something that wakes me up in the morning. "
McGregor has gotten off to a much better start in 2020 than in 2019. He apologized in August for hitting a man in an Irish pub after the gentleman refused to try McGregor's Proper Twelve Whiskey. The video of the incident has shut down many of his Irish fans.
"I am not," said McGregor when the video aired.
This incident happened after he was arrested for smashing the cell phone of an English tourist in Miami who was trying to take his picture, although the charge was later dropped.
Earlier this year, after a press conference at the Barclays Center, McGregor did the community service ordered by the court for throwing a dolly onto a bus full of MMA fighters.
McGregor has escaped prison in all incidents, but seems to understand that he is running out of second chances. He has presented himself as more humble as he prepares for Cerrone, accusing himself of not being as committed as he could be, and promising to be the best version of himself when he comes into battle.
He said he went through the most "structured" training camp of his career and even skipped whiskey.
"I promised my fans to my team and people that I would abstain and stay focused and give everything, and I did," he said.
He also accuses himself of being 2-2 in his last four MMA fights. Some have suggested that the almost $ 100 million he made in 2017 for a boxing match with Floyd Mayweather filled his wallet, but blurred his focus and bloated his ego. There were questions about his commitment to the training that led to his defeat when he played in round four with Khabib Nurmagomedov in the last fight in October 2018.
"I turned a new page," he said.
McGregor has built his brand on fancy bragging rights and an explosive personality that has kept him in trouble. "Notorious" was a suitable nickname, compliance with which has proven to be dangerous. Now we have to believe that he is "not so notorious". As he said recently, "I have gone from apologizing to absolutely nobody to apologizing to absolutely everyone."
McGregor said his quieter demeanor at Wednesday's press conference showed more of Cerrone than some conversion.
"I'm as real as it gets," he said. "I react to the situation. This situation seems a little different. There is nothing wrong or fake. I am only real. "
McGregor said his intensity as a fighter was not affected by his attempt to be a good citizen. Punching people in pubs is out; Beating people in the Octagon isn't like that.