01/19 14:44 CST Conor McGregor holds all the UFC cards after comeback win
Conor McGregor holds all the UFC cards after comeback win
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
LAS VEGAS (AP) --- After three years without a victory, Conor McGregor needed
only 40 seconds to reclaim his place at the center of the mixed martial arts
McGregor's dynamic stoppage of Donald Cerrone in UFC 246 on Saturday night put
the Irish superstar firmly in control of the future of two UFC divisions.
Every elite lightweight and welterweight will practically beg for his shot
against a fighter who still commands the world's attention like nobody else. A
refocused McGregor seems eager to make up for lost time after three years of
inactivity and outside-the-cage misbehavior, suggesting he could fight three
more times this year.
"The whole world lights up when I fight," McGregor said. "So I want to get back
out there again."
He hadn't made a decision by the time he left T-Mobile Arena late Saturday
night with a broad smile on his face and a bottle of his own branded whiskey in
hand. McGregor plans to speak with UFC President Dana White and billionaire
ex-UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta before he decides whether to pursue a
championship belt, a revenge fight, an absurdly lucrative boxing match or any
combination of the three.
The contenders already are lining up.
Popular welterweight brawler Jorge Masvidal would welcome a showdown, while
welterweight champion Kamaru Usman would love to defend his title against
McGregor. Both fighters watched McGregor's victory from cageside, and Masvidal
even tried to goad McGregor in curious fashion by wearing the same Versace robe
that McGregor famously wore a few years ago to an open workout.
Lightweight contender Justin Gaethje fights in a reckless, crowd-pleasing style
guaranteed to make a compelling matchup for the similarly aggressive McGregor.
Another must-see bout would be a third fight with imperious veteran Nate Diaz,
who fought twice in 2019 after his own three-year break.
But White wants McGregor to wait for a fight against lightweight champion
Khabib Nurmagomedov, who beat McGregor in October 2018 and subsequently sparked
an ugly brawl outside the cage. The bad feelings from that promotion haven't
healed, and White believes the rematch could rival the profitability of
McGregor's boxing match with Floyd Mayweather.
"With how Khabib won the first time and how famous Khabib has become, we're
looking at Hagler-Hearns," White said. "We're looking at like Ali-Foreman,
Ali-Frazier. This is a massive fight with global appeal. This is the fight that
you make. This is the fight that makes sense."
But Nurmagomedov is booked to face Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 in April, and
McGregor would prefer not to wait until late summer for his next bout. Instead,
he half-seriously predicted the Nurmagomedov-Ferguson bout will be scrapped and
he'll be forced to step in.
McGregor also could bide his time with another absurdly lucrative boxing match.
While most fight fans scoff at this entire venture, the wider world still
appears to be fascinated by these spectacles, as evidenced by the money made by
McGregor and Mayweather in 2017 in one of the richest pay-per-view bouts in
Mayweather turns 43 next month and has fought once since 2015, but he
immediately posted a mocked-up advertisement for the rematch on his Instagram
page Saturday night. McGregor ripped it because the graphic artist didn't
include the logo for McGregor's promotional company. He jokingly suggested that
slight means he'll instead fight Manny Pacquiao, who has also declared his
interest in the payday that comes with giving a boxing lesson to McGregor.
"I certainly would love the rematch with Floyd," McGregor said. "It very well
could happen this year. The one with Manny will also be there whenever. ...
Floyd is going through money fast. He is far from retired. That rematch will
Before he beat Cerrone, McGregor suggested he could fight again at UFC 248 on
March 7 if he didn't take too much punishment. Cerrone failed to land a single
strike, so McGregor came out totally unscathed --- but it could still take a
bit longer than seven weeks to sort out his next step.
At least the first simultaneous two-division champion in UFC history appears to
be taking that next step with sure footing. The spotlight never left McGregor,
but he didn't seem capable of meeting its demands in recent years.
"I'd achieved it all, right?" McGregor said. "I broke the game before I was 30
years of age. One belt became not enough. I achieved it all. (Coach) John
(Kavanagh) says it's the worst nightmare for a coach if a student achieves it
all. I probably had to go through all that and then just come back for the
McGregor was still the biggest star in the game even while he lost both of his
UFC belts, dabbled in boxing and focused on whiskey, both as a successful
distiller and an eager consumer.
McGregor and Nurmagomedov then engaged in a dark, ugly promotion of their first
bout. Away from the cameras, McGregor was training erratically and enjoying too
much of the good life created by his stardom.
He says he escaped that cloud late last year, and McGregor believes his
performance against Cerrone showed the way to even brighter days if he can stay
on this path.
"I love that whiskey, but you've got to respect it," McGregor said. "You've got
to respect that liquid, because if you don't, it will come and get you."
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