The UFC has scheduled Conor McGregor’s return to the octagon for January. The former two-division UFC champion, who has not fought since an October 2018 submission loss to lightweight titleholder Khabib Nurmagomedov, faces Donald Cerrone in a welterweight bout at UFC 246. That pay-per-view card takes place on January 18, 2020, at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
According to Dana White, a win over Cerrone will set up McGregor for a shot at redemption and the UFC title, should Nurmagomedov retain his belt when he faces Tony Ferguson at UFC 249.
When asked how he can justify penciling McGregor into a lightweight title fight with only one win in that division, a November 2016 KO over Eddie Alvarez, White acted like ESPN’s Brett Okamoto was out of his mind for even asking such a question.
”C’mon guy,” White said with a smirk. “Conor, look what Conor’s done over the last however many years, right?”
Taking White up on his offer to look into what Conor has done over the last few years, I couldn’t find a single item that screamed — or even whispered — that he deserves a title fight in any weight division.
For those who are curious, here’s a list of what McGregor has done over the past three years:
- He’s been stripped of two UFC titles for not defending either in a timely manner.
- He’s gone 0-1 in the UFC.
- He leaped over the cage at Bellator 187 and shoved referee Marc Goddard.
- He almost singlehandedly ruined the UFC 223 fight card when he went bonkers and threw a hand truck into the window of a bus carrying fighters, UFC employees and others from a media event for that card. Three fights were scrapped from the event as a direct result of McGregor’s actions. Two fighters on the bus suffered injuries and McGregor’s teammate Artem Lobov was pulled for being among the knuckleheads who followed violent Saint Patrick into the bowels of Barclays Center. McGregor was arrested for his involvement in the fracas. He eventually pleaded guilty to one count of disorderly conduct.
- After his UFC 229 loss to Nurmagomedov, McGregor was suspended six months and fined $50,000 for his involvement in a post-fight melee inside the octagon.
- He was arrested after he was caught on video smashing the cell phone of a man outside the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. The charges from that incident were later dropped after the alleged victim was reportedly “made whole” by McGregor and did not want to return to Florida to prosecute the case.
- He was arrested after he was caught on video punching a man in the head inside a Dublin pub. McGregor pleaded guilty to assault in that case.
- Most recently, the NY Times reported that McGregor is the focus of two sexual assault investigations in Ireland.
Perhaps it’s me, but McGregor does not sound like someone I would want to fight for a UFC title, but we know what White sees when he looks at McGregor, and that’s truckloads of cash backing into the dock of UFC HQ. So, of course White is willing to book the golden goose in a title fight, no matter the length of his list of indiscretions.
Things got even more farcical when Okamoto asked White if he considered the welterweight matchup between McGregor and Cerrone a fight between two 155-pound fighters competing at 170 pounds.
”100 percent,” said White. “That’s exactly what it is, 155-pound fight that they’re not cutting weight for.”
The problem with that, I guess one could call be generous and call it logic, is that if a fighter steps on the scale and weighs 170 or 171 pounds, that’s a welterweight fight. That’s as much of a lightweight bout as it is a middleweight fight, which is to say, it’s not either of those things, it’s a welterweight fight.
During the brief interview, White also addressed Justin Gaethje calling a possible lightweight title fight involving McGregor, a “crock of shit.”
“We offered Gaethje a lot of fights that Gaethje hasn’t taken either,” said White. “So Conor is in line next if he beats ‘Cowboy.’”
As far as I can tell, White’s “a lot of fights” is one fight, a UFC 238 matchup against Tony Ferguson.
Gaethje had a sound reason to turn down that offer.
“They called me to fight Tony [but] it was four weeks notice,” Gaethje said. “I can’t do that. I can’t go in there compromised. It’s a huge opportunity to miss out on but I asked them if they could push it until Saturday [UFC 239] and they couldn’t do it. ‘Cowboy’ got the bid.”
White can try and justify giving McGregor a title fight any way he wants; he may even believe some of the things he claimed while speaking to Okamoto, but the bottom line is that White wants the money that McGregor brings in. As I wrote in November, the UFC live gate numbers from 2019 are going to be below the total from 2016 when McGregor fought three times. The live gate that year was $88,806,982.50. In 2017, that number dropped to $44,744,143.28. In 2018, the live gate was $66,808,666.31. The three events McGregor headlined in 2016 brought in more than $33 million on their own. Included in that number is the staggering $17,700,000 from UFC 205.
Honesty has never been White’s strong suit, so it’s no surprise that he didn’t say something along the lines of doing it all for the money, dummy. The truth is it would not be a surprise to see McGregor matched up against Nurmagomedov (or Ferguson should he win) even if he loses to Cerrone.
Oh, I might have missed it, but I don’t recall White even bringing up the possibility of Cerrone getting a shot at Nurmagomedov (or Ferguson) with a win over McGregor, even though Cerrone has fought 11 times since McGregor last won a UFC contest. Maybe that just slipped White’s mind. I’m sure he’ll remember to mention that sooner or later – or never.