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Has Conor McGregor mellowed after reaching the grand old age of 31? Has fatherhood seen him mature? Was he humbled after being dominated by Khabib Nurmagomedov last time out?
Certainly appears so. We can still expect fireworks though.
Rafael dos Anjos was set to face Conor McGregor at lightweight three months later but Dos Anjos had to pull out less than two weeks before due to a broken foot.
Donald Cerrone has lived by the “anyone, anytime, anywhere” attitude, taking many fights at short notice, so the UFC asked if he’d step in and face McGregor. His answer? “Hell yeah!”
But the UFC opted for Nate Diaz instead and he took McGregor’s ‘O’ at UFC 196.
The pair first crossed paths at a news conference in September 2015. Conor McGregor had just won the interim featherweight title and was talking about moving up to lightweight (155 lbs).
Donald Cerrone was having none of that though.
“You have a monster right here at 145 [Jose Aldo], who’s about to beat your ass,” he said. “You’ve beat nobody and you think you’re going to come up to 155 and make a statement…come on man!
“He has no right coming up to 155, there’s no way he’s going to stand a chance. We’re too big for him, too strong, so you can take your little English ass…”
“You’re too slow and too stiff,” McGregor interrupted. “You’re stiff as a board, I’d snap you in half.”
Tbh, was surprised he didn’t object first to being called English. Anyway, what happened next?
In December 2015, McGregor knocked Aldo out in 13 seconds at UFC 194 and a week later Cerrone got beat by Rafael dos Anjos in his only title fight to date.
We’ve just seen some of the big names that are there tonight, including several NFL players.
Six-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady is there and although the crowd were also introduced to a Cleveland Browns player, there was no mention of Baker Mayfield sat beside him, despite the Browns quarterback desperately craning his neck to get in the shot. Feel the burn.
BBC Sport in Las Vegas
Can Cowboy spoil Conor’s comeback?
The Irish fans hope not. The atmosphere is building in and around the T-mobile Arena with lots of green, white and orange present.
On a side note, his arms are going to hurt…
Copyright: BBC Sport
Seconds after landing a fourth-round submission, the Russian vaulted the cage and headed towards the Irishman’s team, prompting a melee.
Meanwhile, McGregor was involved in a bust-up in the octagon with members of his opponent’s team. Three of Nurmagomedov’s party were arrested but later released.
Copyright: Getty Images
Brendan Fitzgerald will be joined on the commentary team by MMA journalist Nick Peet and Dan Hardy, the first Briton to challenge for a UFC title way back at UFC 111 in March 2010.
The Irishman also made news for two other unsavoury incidents.
In one, he was accused of smashing a fan’s phone – although the charges were subsequently dropped following his arrest – and in another, he punched a man in a Dublin pub and was convicted of assault.
Conor McGregor has been racking up belts and dollars during his MMA career. He became the UFC’s first two-weight champion and has fought in the UFC’s top five pay-per-view fights.
McGregor is a name that transcends the sport and while little is known about Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone outside of MMA, he’s a big hit amongst UFC fans.
At 36 he’s nearing the end of a storied MMA career in which he has amassed a number of impressive records.
He has fought 33 times in the UFC, sharing the record with fellow American Jim Miller, and has the most wins (23), most finishes (16), most knockdowns (20) and most post-fight bonuses (18) – racking up $1.5m in prize money for awards such as Knockout and Performance of the Night. He knows how to put on a show then.
It’s 470 days since Conor McGregor’s last fight night, when he was beaten by Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229 in October 2018.
But tonight the Irishman is back in action at UFC 246, taking on Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
And despite the welterweight bout being a non-title fight, it is set to break pay-per-view figures, with 31-year-old McGregor saying he will earn a record £80m.
Copyright: Getty Images