Cerrone vs McGregor preview for UFC 246

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Cerrone vs McGregor preview - UFC 246
Two of the biggest names in UFC meet Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Learn more in this Cerrone vs McGregor preview. (Photo credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

No, we’re not talking about his star power. The masses clearly still believe in the Irish star. Not only has his return to mixed martial arts action Saturday night at UFC 246 broken through the noise to capture the sort of mainstream attention only the biggest fights receive, but they also believe he’s still a winner. Conor McGregor is a -335 favorite for his first fight in 15 months, per DraftKings, against opponent Donald Cerrone (a +250 underdog) in their welterweight main event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Cerrone vs McGregor preview

DateSaturday, Jan. 18
Time10 p.m. ET
How to watchESPN+ PPV
McGregor vs Cerrone oddsMcGregor -335, Cerrone +250

But in the fight game, star power can drive the money line among the masses more than the actual state of a fighter’s career at the moment, and in the case of the McGregor, there are real questions whether he’s going to be able to make another run to the top.

The 31-year old Dublin native took off like a meteor to start his UFC career. The brash, quick-witted McGregor broke UFC box office records of all manner en route to winning both the company’s featherweight and lightweight titles, making him the first simultaneous double champion in UFC history.

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But his victory for the latter championship, over Eddie Alvarez at New York’s Madison Square Garden, was all the way back in Nov. 2016, an eternity in combat sports time. He hasn’t won a fight since. In the ensuing three-plus years, McGregor made a reported $100M to box Floyd Mayweather Jr. in Aug. 2017, then went out and behaved like other talented, successful young people in the sports or entertainment fields often when they find themselves suddenly flush with such riches.

McGregor has been involved in a string of legal issues. When he returned to the octagon after a two-year absence in Oct. 2018, he looked like something far removed from his prime self in a fourth-round submission loss to current lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov. 

That’s backdrop heading into the fight: No wins in three years, a lackluster performance last time, ongoing outside-the-cage drama. McGregor’s got the public’s attention, and will mean big bank for his promoters again. But comes out Saturday night and looks like he did against Nurmagomedov, he runs the risk of the public losing interest going forward.

For his part, McGregor is saying all the right things during fight week. He says he hasn’t drank in months, and while he’s usually brash with his words, he has repeatedly hammered home his respect for Cerrone and the fact he and his opponent have the ability to put on the type of exciting show the fans crave. 

“I’m in a position now where I’m just very, very excited to be here. And I’m very eager to perform for the fans on January 18th,” McGregor said at a Wednesday press conference at The Palms Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. “I’ve got a solid opponent in front of me, a veteran of the game, and I’m just in a good spot. That’s it. I don’t think I’ve changed or altered, or, you know, I’m just committed and focused and happy to be here.”
Make no mistake about it: While Cerrone is the underdog in this fight, he’s a live ‘dog, capable of knocking McGregor’s head off if McGregor doesn’t bring his A-game. 

Cerrone, while not a star a McGregor’s class, is a darling of hardcore fight fans for his willingness to mix it up with anyone. The 36-year old brings a two-fight losing streak into the bout. He also brings a resume which bespeaks his reputation for excitement. Cerrone holds UFC records for wins (23), wins inside the distance (16), and post-fight bonus awards such as “Fight of the Night” and Knockout of the Night” (18).

As a battle of southpaw strikers, the action figures to be fast and furious on Saturday. Either competitor able to put out the other’s lights in the blink of an eye.

McGregor, for his part, has earned seven of his nine UFC victories by way of knockout or TKO. And that’s exactly the type of opponent “Cowboy,” who has his own run of limited-edition Budweiser bottles in Vegas-area stores this week, wants it. 

“He’s the two-time belt holding champ. So you can definitely say this is to date the toughest battle I’ve stepped in against,” Cerrone said at Wednesday’s news conference. “I’m stoked man. Everyone always says, ”Cowboy,’ can you fight the big fight? Can you ever make it on the big fight?’ Well mother(expletive), here’s the biggest one. Let’s see.”

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