Former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion Conor McGregor is on the verge of making his return to the Octagon for the first time since UFC 229, as he’ll take on Donald Cerrone in a welterweight bout at UFC 246.
Ahead of his fight against Cerrone, McGregor did a sit-down interview with Ariel Helwani of ESPN which will air in full capacity on Monday, but a snippet was released on Friday and it shows McGregor in a different tone from his last fight. At UFC 229, there was a bitter rivalry between McGregor and reigning champion Khabib Nurmagomedov which spilled over into a post-fight brawl after Nurmagomedov retained his title with a fourth-round submission victory over McGregor.
After the dust settled on the ugly ending to UFC 229, Nurmagomedov has gone on to defend his title against Dustin Poirier and is now scheduled to for another title defense against top-contender Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 in April. Following his fight with Nurmagomedov, McGregor has been out of competition but is scheduled for a more than game opponent in Cerrone at UFC 246.
During his interview with ESPN, McGregor discussed why he chose Cerrone as his opponent and why the fight between the two is happening at welterweight. McGregor said he respected Cerrone as a family man, and the fact that “The Notorious” said he would fight Cerrone, is why this fight is happening.
“Well I said I’d fight him, right? Me and Donald have had a history, a long history, well not a long history but we’ve had a history. It’s an exciting bout, it’s a fan-friendly bout, it’s a fight that excites me, and it’s a fight that I’d partake, and I appreciate Donald, I’d have to say. He’s fought a lot of times since the last time I saw him, he’s gone on and fought so many times, he’s also a family man and I appreciate that and I respect that. I also respect the method he went about with the Proper whiskey, so much work goes into these things, to see that bit of respect, I look forward to having a good bout.
Given the past history of McGregor getting into high-profiled rivalries with former opponents that created a lot of attention, the former champion is going a different route in the build up to his fight against Cerrone. With recent out of action legal incidents happening in McGregor’s personal life, he told ESPN he knows he has to come into this fight with a different mindset, and he’s excited to start his season.
“For me in this time of my life, that is the right way to go about it, especially now. I’m happy to come back and have my comeback fight and the beginning of my season against Donald. I look forward to it, it’s going to be a good night and I’m going to shine here on January 18, I’m going to create magic inside the Octagon like I have done many times before but this is going to be something special.”
With questions surrounding the fact that this is going to be a welterweight fight, McGregor said it was his decision to fight at 170 and he doesn’t believe Cerrone looks healthy at 155.
“Right now I’m under-weight, I’m about 160-and a bit. I just don’t think he [Cerrone] looks well at 155, he’s a 170-fighter. Why would I want him to suffer? I can beat him at any weight, I can beat him if I had the flu. I just want to focus on my training and then I don’t have to cut then build, I’m happy where I’m at. Also, 170 is exciting for me, I like what’s going on in the division right now. You got Jorge with that belt, you got the other guys fighting for the belt, I like what’s going on at 170. I feel good at 170, I feel energetic, it’s what I weigh, I feel good. It opens up so many more options.
Although he seems energized by the upcoming welterweight fight, McGregor did say he is not done with the lightweight division, adding that he will let the fight play as it is then he will open up all his options.
You can watch the full video below and get the betting odds for the UFC 246 here.
This is a small excerpt of my conversation with @TheNotoriousMMA. I’ll let you judge for yourself, and you can’t fully grasp it from this clip, but he appears to be in a much happier, calmer place. Owned up to a lot, too. pic.twitter.com/etnhEj6koB
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) January 11, 2020