Mixed Martial Artist Conor McGregor silenced his critics on Saturday night at UFC 246. With an emphatic first-round TKO, the Irishman erased any doubts about his future as a professional fighter when he defeated Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in only 40 seconds to the delight of an electric crowd in Las Vegas.
The main event between the two highly-accomplished fighters was jam-packed with action despite the fact it lasted less than a minute. Both fighters came out full-metal-jacket at the sound of the opening bell, as Cowboy charged McGregor, who attempted to end the American with a huge, heavy left hand.
Cerrone managed to duck-and-dodge the blow. However, his good fortune didn’t last long…
The two quickly went into the clinch, which saw McGregor deliver multiple shoulder blows to the head of Cerrone. The impact was unexpected by the American, whose head busted open and began bleeding. Shortly after, the two separated following a knee to his opponent’s mid-section by McGregor.
Then, the courageous Cowboy attempted to even the stakes by ushering a head-kick towards McGregor. Ultimately, the fighter failed as the Irishman anticipated and dodged the strike.
From that point on, the rest of the fight was all Conor, who returned a head-kick of his own that landed just under the chin of Cerrone. The American was dizzy after the strike and dropped to a knee. McGregor didn’t waste any time and pounced on his prey. After delivering an onslaught of crushing blows, the fight was called by referee Herb Dean and ruled a technical knockout.
McGregor was ecstatic after the victory during in-ring and locker room interviews with both UFC ringside voice Joe Rogan and MMA analyst Ariel Helwani.
According to ESPN, Conor said, “ I knew he was planning to knock me out with a head kick. I knew this is what Donald would have been envisioning. … But at the same time, I know that Donald has many discrepancies in his game, with the leans and dips under certain attacks that can also set him up for the high kick. So the high kick was something I thought I could catch him with, also.”
Leading up to the bout, McGregor had been very reserved and was unusually quiet during press appearances unlike other fights in his past. Normally, the Ireland native is very provocative and bold. However, that all changed during his post-fight chat with Rogan. The Irishman’s respectful demeanor disappeared while referencing any potential opponent. He declared, “Any one of these fools can get it. All of them. Every single one. It does not matter.”
The knockout was the second-fastest of McGregor’s career, which is trumped only by a 13-second knockout of Jose Aldo in December 2015. With the victory, he improves his record to 22-4 and now has finishes in three separate UFC divisions–featherweight, lightweight and welterweight.
What does this dominant performance say about McGregor’s future, and what does it mean for the UFC?
Make no mistake about it, Conor McGregor is the most transcendent superstar in the UFC today. He proved that Saturday night, as it’s his name that was largely responsible for drawing a crowd of 19,040 mixed-martial-arts fans to T-Mobile Arena. The total gate for the fight, not including pay-per-view earnings was $11,089,129.30.
What’s that? You don’t believe me?
Do your due diligence and research those figures. When referring to them, you will learn that Saturday night’s event was the fourth-highest grossing event in UFC history. Then ask yourself, “What does that have to do with Conor?”
The evidence suggests that the answer is everything. McGregor has been involved in three of the top five highest-grossing gates in company history. Also, his mass appeal, antics, and theatrics have translated well to crossover success in the world of boxing.
The Irishman’s August 2017 exhibition bout with Floyd Mayweather drew unprecedented fanfare, as it attracted both diehard combat sports enthusiasts and traditional boxing fans. Initially, Mayweather and McGregor were both guaranteed a combined $130 Million at the fight’s outset. After adding in pay-per-view buys and other sources of revenue, the final haul was much higher for both fighters. That specific PPV drew 4.3 Million buys, which is the second-most in professional fighting history.
Simply put, McGregor is a cash cow. Not only that, but he is one of the most recognizable athletes of this generation. Combine that with the fact he is one of the most charismatic individuals in the world of professional sports, and you have a fighter who is already pushing the boundaries of MMA while also possessing the potential to take sports entertainment to heights never before seen.
Essentially, Conor McGregor is the Michael Jordan of the UFC.
Despite being a high-maintenance fighter with sometimes excessive demands and illicit behavior outside-of-the-cage, even his boss can’t stop drooling over the superstar.
UFC President Dana White was “blown away” by how McGregor looked during the welterweight bout. “He looked unbelievable. He won’t hear another peep from me about fighting at 170,” White said according to ESPN while adding, “He looked fast, he looked sharp, he looked strong. It was all about Conor. It has nothing to do with Cowboy being shot or anything like that.”
McGregor’s legacy has been in question since losing to Mayweather, and a fourth-round submission loss at UFC 229 during a lightweight bout with Khabib Nurmagomedov. Also, his character has been in question lately. During a turbulent 2019, he pleaded guilty to punching an elderly man in a Dublin bar while also becoming the subject of two alleged sexual assault investigations in his native Ireland.
With this return to the octagon. McGregor seemed to display a refined maturity for the first time in his career. The approach was on full display in Las Vegas, from both a physical standpoint and in a preparational sense.
The Irishman outclassed and outmatched the fading Cerrone, who has been accused of often shrinking when the spotlight shines the brightest. Despite being the record holder for the most wins and finishes in UFC history, “Cowboy” is an aging fighter that has never been a titleholder with the promotion.
McGregor is only 31-years-old and is still in the prime of his career. With his renewed focus and emphasis on training year-round, he has promised to fight three times or more this year.
Potential megafights with Jorge Masvidal, Nurmagomedov, and Floyd Mayweather potentially lie ahead for McGregor. However, the fighter’s fate will ultimately be decided by Dana White, who is the final decision-maker for any bout Conor will be involved in. He believes Khabib, not Masvidal is the next step for the Irishman. The fighter has co-signed that sentiment and expressed that a rematch will certainly end in his favor, unlike the preceding bout.
“I’m excited about the future,” McGregor told Helwani after the fight. “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. Soon enough, we’ll see what happens.”
In my opinion, Conor looks set to keep kicking ass and stacking cash for the foreseeable future. A man with a plan, who carries a heavy left-hand is nothing to mess with. It’s going to be tough for anyone, including Khabib, to deal with that smoke.