For someone as hugely popular as Conor McGregor, it’s almost unfathomable that his destruction of Donald Cerrone on Saturday night was his first win in over three years.
McGregor (22-4) last had his hand raised inside the Octagon at UFC 205 in November 2016, where he tore up Eddie Alvarez to capture the lightweight title. However, “Notorious” battled Floyd Mayweather Jr. in what many considered a spectacle of a boxing match in August 2017 and then lost via neck crank to rival Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229 in October 2018. Aside from social media posts and various scandals, the polarizing Irish superstar has been largely missing in action.
Rumors surrounded McGregor that he was struggling financially, had substance abuse issues and marital problems, and when the Dublin native was ensnared in two sexual assault allegation charges and filmed sucker-punching an old man inside an Irish bar, things appeared to be falling apart. While McGregor didn’t acknowledge any of that after his 40-second drubbing of Cerrone (36-14, 1 NC), he did admit that he was going through hard times and treated those around him like dirt.
“I wasn’t committed,” McGregor said at the UFC 246 post-fight conference. “I have this team behind me who leave their families to be with me, but I’m not there. I’d be gone for three days and then show up. I disrespected all those who were with me and believed in me. I had to reset that and that’s where I’m at.
“I achieved it all,” he added while explaining why he had changed. “I broke the game before I was 30 years of age. It’s like one belt wasn’t even enough anymore. The money, the fame, the belts… what then to motivate me? I came back to it for the love, just like how I got into in the first place.”
McGregor’s attitude was much more subdued this time around. There weren’t any riots after the match, no hand trucks thrown into a bus full of fighters, no loud and obnoxious press conference shouting matches. McGregor seemed for serious and focused, more… mature.
“It was good to get back out there and get that feel again,” he said. “I feel amazing, there’s still work to be done, but this is a great first step. I did great work this camp, I pushed myself so hard I had to hold myself back sometimes. I’m excited about the future. I’m not going to dwell on this victory, it’s back in the gym and back to work. Who is next doesn’t matter. The when is more interesting. The whole world lights up when I fight, so I want to get back out there again.”
With him being much more focused, especially with someone as experienced and dangerous as “Cowboy,” McGregor proved why is the biggest star the sport of MMA has ever seen thus far. “Notorious” missed a massive left hand to start the fight, but when he and Cerrone clinched, McGregor added a new wrinkle to his game that caught the fan favorite off-guard. McGregor slammed his left shoulder into Cerrone’s face repeatedly before dropping him with a left head kick and then effectively stopping him with follow-up punches.
“That shoulder shot is a good shot, I wonder what all those so-called experts are going to say now, ‘He’s only a left shoulder!’ Absolute lack of respect and true knowledge of the sport from some of these people. It wasn’t specifically part of the game plan; I was ready to utilize all of my weapons, including wrestling, including grappling. I was ready to showcase all of my skills.”
Everything lasted just 40 seconds and after McGregor praised Cerrone afterward, his target shifted toward the future. With a plethora of elite fighters all lining up to fight him, McGregor has seemingly endless possibilities, whether it be Nurmagomedov, Tony Ferguson, Jorge Masvidal or Kamaru Usman.
McGregor said to “line them all up” but didn’t call out anybody in particular. He mocked Masvidal’s BMF belt and attire he wore on Saturday, ridiculed Usman’s management and said he would love to fight Nurmagomedov again. But, he said, he really wants to headline a UFC event in a stadium, whether it’s in Ireland or at the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium that is still under construction.
“If there’s a stadium show in Europe, it’s happening in Ireland. It’s not going to be in the U.K. I love the U.K. but a stadium show will be in Ireland. The Allegiant Stadium (Raiders) looks amazing and I would love to the first one to headline a show there.”
It wouldn’t be a McGregor presser without Mayweather questions, as “Money” posted a faux fight poster trying to hype up a potential rematch of what was the second-highest grossing pay-per-view in history.
“Floyd’s a funny man,” he laughed. “If you know Floyd, he goes through money fast so he’s never far from un-retiring.”