LAS VEGAS – "Only for the fight". That should be the nickname that describes UFC 246 on Saturday evening in the T-Mobile Arena, where Conor McGregor will return after a 15-month layoff against fan favorite Donald "Cowboy". Cerrone.
The eagerly awaited welterweight bout broadcast on ESPN Plus PPV was free of the hostility that is usually associated with McGregor bouts. Trash talk, threats and promises have been replaced by promises on each side to provide fans and viewers with their very best.
"It's a different reaction between me and Donald," said McGregor. "But it's still a very intense fight. Make no mistake, I'm coming with the intent and all my ability to push Donald away."
The untitled fight is McGregor's first fight since the fourth round against UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in October 2018. McGregor has been 2-2 and a total of 2 in his last four MMA fights spanning almost four years. 3 You expect to lose in a boxing match against Floyd Mayweather in August 2017. The first double division UFC champion has promised to be more active this year, starting with this fight.
McGregor said he is back to the sport and is leaving a very structured training camp that physically and mentally prepares him for a five-round fight.
"I just want activity," said McGregor. "I will go in and look for rounds. I will not be in a hurry. I will put pressure on Donald. I will hurt Donald. But if he can endure, I am happy. I am happy to buy rounds and build on these rounds."
The 36-year-old Cerrone should have the better timing considering his level of activity at the start of the fight. He fought four times in 2019 and three times in 2018, setting a 4-3 record during that time, including losses in his last two fights. Although he lost his last two fights against top candidates Justin Gaethje and Tony Ferguson, Cerrone's work makes him a credible opponent. With 36-13 without competition, he has the UFC record for victories and placements and also holds the UFC mark for KOs with kicks.
"I'm looking forward to five rounds of hell," said Cerrone. "We are prepared and ready."
Cerrone is dangerous with his feet and fists, but is known as a slow starter and has problems with south paws. That plays a role in McGregor's strength. The Irishman will try to lead Cerrone into one of his powerful left hands with his 74-inch south paw reach. Cerrone's best bet is that it's more of a fight on the ground, but that doesn't sell well with PPV. Watch out for Cerrone's powerful kicks, but expect a stand-up fight that benefits McGregor.
With a 170lb fight, none of the fighters were claimed to lose weight, but conditioning could still be a factor in the later rounds if it gets this far. McGregor has a reputation for fading, which has been proven against Nurmagomedov and Mayweather.
"People keep saying they want the old, Conor, the 2016 Conor," said McGregor. "But I feel in a better place. I am more experienced.
"I was sporadic with my work and my life. I am much more centered, grounded and focused. "
McGregor (21-4) appears to have maintained his appeal to fans despite a number of legal issues. He was last arrested for smashing a fan’s cell phone in Miami and beating a man who was sitting in a pub in Ireland. There was also a report investigating McGregor for sexual assault in Ireland.
His humble approach this week could be more damage limitation and image enhancement. He mentioned his support for Australia's fire-fighting efforts.
"He has a great platform, why not be a good role model?" Said Cerrone about McGregor. "Why not be a good person? It is good to see that he is on the right path. I like this."
McGregor is targeting two more high-profile MMA fights this year and maybe a boxing event with Manny Pacquiao as a potential opponent. Right now it's "The Notorious versus the Cowboy," said McGregor.
For the fight only.
Forecast: McGregor's inactivity is worrying, but he should begin landing his strong left hand sometime in the second round and end Cerrone in the third round.