Welcome to the first edition of King and Slim, a debate column between writers Anthony Walker and Kristen King that answers a question or two about an upcoming MMA event. This week, we will be tackling the question of whether the fight between Conor McGregor and Donald Cerrone should be happening at UFC 246.
Ant: The question that we should probably be asking right now for multiple reasons is should this fight between Conor McGregor and Donald Cerrone be happening at UFC 246?
Kristen: It’s certainly a very weird fight to be taking place right now considering a lot of the factors behind it even being booked. This biggest thing is obviously the two sexual allegations looming over McGregor which haven’t been addressed much if at all by the UFC. Which in some sense I understand. They might have limited resources to investigate it themselves but there should be some sort of transparency with the fans because this is common knowledge at this point. We already know that Conor is under investigation and there shouldn’t be this “hear no evil, see no evil” approach to the matter. Maybe some of the fans don’t care, but we do. We want the big business to uphold some sort of ethical standard for their athletes and that they wouldn’t want their biggest star wrapped up in something like this.
It’s one of those weird fights. Does it make sense? I guess I’m not too sure about that. This could lead to a title fight against the winner of Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson or a fight against Jorge Masvidal. There’s just so much up in the air right now. We don’t know what’s supposed to happen next.
There are a lot of people banking on Conor winning and if he does there’s potentially chaos at both lightweight and welterweight. Then what do we do?
Ant: I’m all over the place with this one for those reasons. But let me first address the most serious one. I will at least give some credit to Dana White for saying something about these allegations even if he floated over them. However he did raise an interesting point, so let me play devil’s advocate for a second here.
He hasn’t been charged with anything. Taking away someone’s living because of an unsubstantiated claim isn’t the fairest thing to do. But I’m still so conflicted because we’re talking about heinous violent crimes and a business based entirely on violence. Those two things should be kept an infinite distance apart from one another. Just as a man who just wants to go to work and support his household, I’ll lend the benefit of the doubt and say that charges haven’t been filed so let the fight go on. But we can’t just pretend that this isn’t happening.
This is a very relevant story and not because we’re diehard fans that care about the well being of the sport. This is about being a good human being. Simultaneously caring about mixed martial arts and caring about the world and the people that live in it. It just seems like something that should spark some level of thought in the mind someone even remotely reasonable.
As far as the fight itself is concerned, I do think that Conor and Cowboy should be meeting one another at this time. It sounds appropriate to me. I like the fact that we’re going back to Joe Silva style matchmaking with both guys coming off of a loss and this determining who bounces back and brushes aside their previous L. That part feels very organic.
What I’m not a big fan of is that mess that you alluded to. To have a fight at welterweight likely decide the next challenger at lightweight doesn’t make a lot of sense. To have a fight with two guys coming off of losses at 155 determine anything about the hierarchy at welterweight makes even less sense. I just don’t know what to feel. A Conor fight is one of the most conflicting things to come around on the calendar of an intelligent fan.
Kristen: What’s crazy is that a couple of years ago, it didn’t feel like that. He fought Dustin Poirier, Denis Siver, Chad Mendes, and then got to Jose Aldo. Yeah there were some complaints then but at least it followed some meritocracy: he fought contenders and then got a crack at the champion. Now it just feels so weird.
In his interview with Oscar Willis of The Mac Life, it was great to hear him some ambitions. Especially considering how so many people have written him off lately. It sounded great, he wanted Khabib and Kamaru Usman…it sounded great. But again, I’m confused about what happens after this fight. It all feels like a weird conspiracy to get him back in the cage against Khabib.
I think he’s trying to set himself up for these big fights with a Jorge Masvidal or a Usman. But a lot of those don’t make sense. I’m in the same camp of those two: you don’t want those problems Conor. I know he wants to prove himself at 170 but these are killers. It’s not like his 2 previous welterweight fights against Nate Diaz. It’s probably not the best idea.
But somehow, someway Khabib is going to be his next opponent for Conor should he win. Do things seem right? No, they never do.
His back is against the wall here. It’s not 2015 when everybody was enthralled by watching him. Now he’s more of a loose cannon and there’s not as much to take seriously at this point. It sucks to say it because he’s an incredible fighter and athlete. But if he’s looked at in this way, can he ever go back to being the Notorious that was becoming a two-time UFC champion and boxing Floyd Mayweather Jr.? We don’t know and the controversies outside the cage certainly don’t help.
I understand your point about not wanting to take away his living based solely on allegations without formal charges. However, we also live in a time where being in the eye of the public and if that public deems you unfit, there will be pressure on your employer to do something about that. I think that’s where some of the frustration comes from. Their hands could be tied here. Maybe they can start their own independent investigation.
Ant: There are things that can be done. But will they do them with this much money on the line? Probably not.
But I do want to address that conspiracy theory you mentioned just a minute ago. The fix is already in. In Dana’s interview with Brett Okamoto of ESPN, he really downplayed what Justin Gaethje has done in his current run. He’s on a 3 fight win streak with all first-round knockouts. Also, take a look at everybody else in the top 10 and he’s clearly the most deserving of a title shot after Ferguson. It seems like the narrative is already being written that Gaethje is turning down fights and what’s he done in the Octagon just isn’t good enough to be next in line. So of course, let’s just throw Conor in there after a welterweight fight.
Kristen: It’s funny because Conor already mentioned that in a way. He said he’d fill in should either side of the Khabib-Tony falls apart. It makes sense that he’d be banking on that bout falling apart since it already has four times already. It would definitely be disappointing it fell apart again. Double that if Conor steps in and not Gaethje.
Ant: So we’ll conclude it with this. Yes or no, should this fight be taking place?
Kristen: (Long pause) Ummm yes.
Ant: I agree. It should.
PS from Ant: Since this conversation was transcribed, McGregor briefly addressed the allegations in an interview with ESPN’s Ariel Helwani. As fight week kicks into full gear, it will be interesting to see how the promotion, McGregor, and the attending media handle the elephant in the room.