Conor McGregor is finally returning to the Octagon. Following his most recent return, a submission loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov, McGregor’s return has constantly been in question. McGregor has stayed in the headlines, however, but for incidents outside of his fighting career.
Accusations of sexual assault and fighting old men aren’t exactly the publicity Mcgregor was expecting at this stage in his career. Regardless of your view on The Notorious and his antics, one thing that is clear is that he rarely shies away from a challenge. Let’s not pretend his boxing debut against Floyd Mayweather wasn’t a circus event. He firmly believed however that he would win. Call it delusion if you’d like, but the self-belief McGregor exudes has always been awe-inspiring.
Since his UFC debut in 2013, McGregor has set lofty goals for himself. Scour the internet long enough and you can find videos of McGregor, sporting a shaved head and pimples while still fighting for the Cage Warriors promotion. He spoke about how he will inevitably face Jose Aldo. At that time, fighting Jose Aldo seemed like such a ridiculous thing to happen, and his confidence that he would inevitably beat him was even more ridiculous.
His next fight, against veteran Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, represents a shift in his career and mindset.
In every sense, this fight is a tune-up for McGregor. Tune-up fights are a safe choice for career management. After all, fighting is how these athletes support themselves and their family. Ideally, McGregor should have taken a tune-up before facing Khabib, but a tune-up is antithetical to McGregor and his beliefs- at least it was. Even John Kavanaugh, the longtime coach of the first-ever champ champ, stated just a few months earlier that his man would not take a tune-up.
Cowboy is near the end of his career. Although he’s been TKO-ed in his previous two fights, these losses have come against two top lightweights. While he is by no means a bad fighter, the match-up is one designed to make Conor look good.
McGregor always has his doubters going into match-ups. He was doubted when he faced the wrestler Chad Mendes then again against Aldo. Even when the sports biggest star rematched Nate Diaz after his first UFC defeat, nearly everyone counted him out. It seemed that Conor thrived on that doubt. After winning, he was seen backstage walking past crowds of people yelling “you all doubted me!”.
Against Cerrone, this will not be the case. McGregor has always had the luxury of having any fight he chooses. Perhaps after defeat at the hands of the undefeated Nurmagomedov, he is done with achieving greatness. His return fight being at welterweight implies that a potential fight against “Baddest motherf*cker” belt holder Jorge Masvidal is in his sights. The Conor McGregor who wanted to be the best fighter ever may be gone. The Notorious may just want to be the baddest.
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