Conor McGregor is back: what does his return mean for the UFC?


After just over a year away from the cage, Conor McGregor is set to return to the UFC.

The Irish superstar had been teasing a comeback in recent months. However, UFC president Dana White has confirmed he will return on January 18 against Donald Cerrone at UFC 246.

With the Notorious one back, what could that mean for the UFC?

Forever a fixture in the spotlight – Conor McGregor is undoubtedly the biggest star in the UFC. For all the controversy that has surrounded his name in recent years, he is an unmatchable draw for the company.

The announcement of his return will give them a monumental kick-start to the new year with his fight being confirmed by Dana White on ESPN.

The Irishman is without a win since his historic fight against Eddie Alvarez in 2016, having only fought once since. His last bout was a defeat last October to lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Despite much back and forth since then and a plethora of bouts discussed, McGregor vs Cerrone may be the fight that opens the door to a world of chaos in 2020.

With the clash between McGregor and Cerrone set to be at welterweight (170lbs), the fight promises plenty of fireworks. Conor has shown in the past that he is one of the most revered strikers in MMA, finishing 18 of his 21 foes by way of knockout.

From the 13 second knockout of Jose Aldo to the blitz of Eddie Alvarez, McGregor is capable of finishing a fight at a moments notice. However, the former two-weight champion will more than have his hands full with Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone.

The Colorado native is the UFC record holder for the most finishes, blending punches and kicks to form his highlight reel. Although Cerrone, like McGregor, is coming into this bout on the back of a defeat – losing out to Justin Gaethje in September by knockout.

Should McGregor pick up a win against Cerrone, the door opens to plenty of potential fights for him. The main two being the trilogy bout against Nate Diaz and a mega-fight against Jorge Masvidal. Whilst the fight against Diaz had long been the one fans expected the most, that may not be the case.

The current future of Diaz is unknown, following his recent loss to Jorge Masvidal. The loss to Masvidal in itself also poses an issue, should McGregor make a triumphant return, does calling out Nate Diaz on a losing streak have the same draw? While the fight is huge – one would imagine that the current state of both fighters recent form doesn’t make it as appealing.

Another factor that is so interesting about the return of McGregor is the fact this fight is taking place at welterweight. Cerrone has previously fought at McGregor’s preferred weight of lightweight, even challenging for the title there. Is the Irishman adapting to the weight in order to set-up a future bout with Jorge Masvidal?

Conor has fought twice at 2elterweight previously, both coming against Nate Diaz. However, Masvidal poses a significantly bigger challenge to Conor than both Diaz and Cerrone at 170 pounds.

Cerrone has fought ten times at 170, his other 26 fights have all been at 155. The story is the same with Nate Diaz, the California native has a total of six fights out of 32 at welterweight. The two may have fought there but by and large, they have spent the vast majority of their careers at 155. Masvidal on the other-hand has spent the majority of his career at 170 – he is a natural welterweight.

Even though the fight has plenty of potential to be an absolute blockbuster, it is hard to ignore the fact that Masvidal is simply too big for Conor. Beyond the size, Masvidal’s recent striking displays would make for a compelling argument that McGregor may not actually be the better striker of the two.

However, Gamebred, like Conor, is supremely clever in figuring his opponents out and then exploiting that weakness. You would only have to view his knockouts of Ben Askren and Darren Till to see this.

Beyond the size and ability – it’s also worth noting the forever questionable gas tank of Conor McGregor. The Irishman is known to fade and against a pressure fighter like Jorge Masvidal who does not wilt. Even against cardio king, Nate Diaz, Masvidal kept on throwing at Diaz with the same intensity up until the doctor stopped the bout with no sign of slowing.

McGregor lost out to Diaz through fatigue in their first fight and had to ride the storm to get a decision over Diaz. However, Nate isn’t famous for finishing people, Masvidal has made it a staple of his game lately. Should the Irishman win on his return in January, he may have options but Jorge Masvidal shouldn’t be one of them.


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