By: Sean Crose
It’s been a tough couple of years for Conor McGregor. After assuring the world he would “educate” the greatest boxer of a generation, he ended up losing handily in his first boxing match. Then, the following year, he stepped back into the octagon after a lengthy layoff only to be completely dominated by a man he had mocked mercilessly. Then, of course, there were the consequences of antisocial behavior– charges of racism, and Islamophobia, sexual assault accusations, and numerous recorded incidents showcasing aggressive physical behavior. Again, it’s been a tough couple of years – much of it self-inflicted. Still, McGregor, one of the most famous athletes on earth, is planning on turning things around starting this Saturday night in Las Vegas.
For there, at the T-Mobile arena, the Irish star will once again step into the octagon, this time to face the highly respected MMA vet Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in a scheduled five round welterweight fight. Cerrone, at first blush, looks to be the perfect opponent for McGregor at this point. With a record of 36-13, and at 36 years of age, the product of Denver has lost his last two fights – to Justin Gaethje and Tony Ferguson respectively. Still, the 21-4 McGregor doesn’t have the greatest track record at welterweight, having split two matches with arch foil Nate Diaz in the 170 pound division back in 2016.
It’s also worth noting that McGregor hasn’t won a fight since 2016, when he stopped Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight title that November. After moving on to face – and be stopped by – Floyd Mayweather the following summer, McGregor took over a year off, then tapped out to Khabib Nurmagomadov in October of 2018. Then there’s the matter of those well-publicized troubles the Dublin based fighter has faced before, during and since that time. The wear and tear seem to be evident in the McGregor’s latest public appearances. Here is a man, it appears, who has been genuinely impacted by his experiences and decisions.
It’s best to keep in mind, though, that McGregor looks physically GOOD heading into Saturday. He’s carrying that needed extra weight well. He’s also appeared extremely sharp and focused in training. It sometimes may be easy to forget that McGregor is more than a pop culture presence, he’s a professional fighter who excels at the highest levels of his chosen sport. He is, simply put, a lot more than just hype. Should McGregor show the skills he’s noted for – the awkwardness, speed, and expert use of a deadly left hand – Cerrone may well be in for a long night come Saturday. Or perhaps a very short one.
In fact, it’s being noted among analysts that the fight – which McGregor is favored to win as of press time – can go one of two ways: McGregor will wrap things up in rapid whirlwind fashion, or Cerrone will survive an initial onslaught and take McGregor deep. Known for having less than impressive cardio, the second scenario could prove all wrong for McGregor. Cerrone, on the other hand, would be well advised to be mindful of the first scenario, as his lack of head movement in the octagon can make for a perfect target for McGregor’s missile like strikes.
As he enters his second act, McGregor brings with him a great many questions. He can take comfort knowing other major combat sport stars, such as Muhammad Ali, and George Foreman, also brought questions with them into the mid to late portions of their careers. Both those men obviously did exceptionally well for themselves. Then again, many fighters have crashed and burned under the circumstances. It will be interesting to see where McGregor stands after this weekend.