It’s hard to believe it’s been 15 months since Conor McGregor’s ill-fated fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov in October 2018. The Irishman’s defeat, and the fall-out from the resultant post-fight brawl, dominated headlines for many weeks to follow, and McGregor went down in many people’s estimations of his fighting ability. The nature of McGregor’s confident persona is such that any defeat is a major blow to his champion credentials.
But January 2020 brings new beginnings – a new year, a new decade, and perhaps a new McGregor. His Octagon comeback is pencilled in for January 18th, and a clash with Donald Cerrone the headline act of UFC 246. The current McGregor vs Cerrone odds place the Irishman as the firm favourite, which is no surprise given Cerrone’s record of 36 wins and 13 losses – hardly fear-striking numbers.
Simply put, McGregor is the biggest draw the UFC has to offer. For all the baggage that comes with him – the controversial behaviour, the fighting words and the braggadocio – McGregor brings an army of fans and a following that, love him or hate him, can’t take their eyes off him. He is a showman in the truest sense of the word, and so his return will have UFC chief Dana White rubbing his hands with glee as he watches the pay-per-view sales ratchet up a notch.
While McGregor’s return is a major result for the UFC, what does it mean for the man himself? It’s been a turbulent time since October 2018 for the Dublin native. The high-profile nature of his defeat to Khabib will have hurt McGregor deeply, and the ugly scenes in the aftermath of that fight are perhaps evidence of that.
There were yet more lows for McGregor following that crushing defeat, with controversy and negative headlines surrounding the Irishman at every turn, justifiably in most cases it must be said. But the upcoming clash with Cerrone offers McGregor the chance to right a few wrongs, and to channel whatever frustrations may still linger within him into a dominant performance in the Octagon. Success is the best way to turn the tide of criticism, after all.
And let’s not forget that beneath the hustle and bustle that surrounds McGregor, he is one of the most talented MMA fighters we have ever seen – a dogged, tenacious competitor with an element of grace in combat. The sad thing for McGregor is that his behaviour has often caused people to overlook those basic qualities he possesses as a fighter, which few can rival.
A 15-month absence means that the result of McGregor’s fight with Cerrone may not be as much of a sure thing as it otherwise might be. They say that class is permanent, and McGregor has a chance to prove that on January 18th when he makes his return.
The result on the night will be the only yardstick of whether or not McGregor’s comeback was the right decision for him on a personal level. A win will be a major statement of intent, and a reaffirmation of his fighting qualities – the abilities that made him so revered in the first place. A defeat, and more negative publicity, would only provide ammunition for the doubters – those who say that McGregor is past his best as a fighter and is nothing but a cash cow for the UFC.
After a lengthy spell out of the Octagon, the time has come for McGregor to step out of the shadows and silence his critics.