The UFC is set to kick off its 2020 slate with UFC 246, which will take place Saturday night from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Headlining the event will be a welterweight bout between Conor McGregor, who is making his long-awaited return to action and veteran fan favorite Donald Cerrone.
Ultimately, the return of McGregor, a former two-division champion who serves as the sport’s biggest star, is the storyline surrounding UFC 246. And to be honest, the card simply isn’t the deepest from top to bottom.
That’s not to say there aren’t any intriguing fights taking place this weekend. One other storyline that has stuck out is the fact that UFC 246 will feature three prominent former champions in McGregor, Holly Holm, and Anthony “Showtime” Pettis.
What’s interesting is not that the three are competing on Saturday or that they are competing on the same card. But rather, all three aforementioned fighters are in desperate need of a victory and each needs a win for reasons that differ from why a victory is crucial to the other two.
Throughout this week thus far, some have argued that UFC 246’s main event, while certainly garnering interest, is lacking the type of buzz that typically surrounds a McGregor fight.
Reasons supporting this idea could include the Irishman’s inactivity as of late or perhaps the lack of success he’s found as of late. When McGregor was rising through the ranks, he was fighting often and winning often.
However, the 31-year-old “Notorious” one hasn’t competed in a mixed martial arts bout since October 2018. He hasn’t picked up a UFC win since November 2016.
Also, McGregor has also had his fair share of slip-ups outside of the cage that has made it difficult for some fans to root for him in the same way they once did.
For example, he infamously attacked a bus filled with fighters ahead of UFC 223. He then smashed a fan’s cell phone in Miami and punched a man in a Dublin bar who supposedly declined a shot of his Proper No. 12 Irish Whiskey.
Perhaps most notably, McGregor has also been the subject of multiple sexual assault allegations according to reports from the New York Times. He hasn’t been charged with anything, but these reports have shed a negative light on the former champion.
Given everything that has transpired in McGregor’s life in recent years, his bout with Cerrone may be the most important of his career. He’s said repeatedly that he’s treating 2020 as a “season”. He’s also said that he’s looking to get back to what made him the star he was.
Ultimately, a win would go a long way in erasing some of these bad memories. A loss, however, could mark the end of the McGregor we once knew.
When Holm entered the UFC in 2015, there was a fair amount of hype surrounding “The Preacher’s Daughter”. After all, Holm had already established herself as a decorated striker, having won multiple world titles in the sport of boxing.
Also, she had already begun to make a name for herself by compiling a perfect 7-0 professional MMA record. That record also included six victories by stoppage. And that success continued in the UFC, as Holm picked up back-to-back victories over Raquel Pennington and Marion Reneau.
She then earned a title shot against Ronda Rousey. Given her stature, Rousey was an overwhelming favorite against Holm. Yet The Preacher’s Daughter shocked the world, knocking out Rousey in the second round with a vicious head kick to become the 135-pound champion.
Since that victory, however, the New Mexico native has had quite an up-and-down run. Following the win over Rousey, Holm lost three straight bouts. This skid included a fight for the vacant 145-pound title against Germaine de Randamie.
Following that loss, she bounced back with a win over Bethe Correia to earn another title shot. This time it came against then featherweight queen Cris Cyborg. Once again, however, she came up short.
The pattern then repeated itself, as Holm beat Megan Anderson only to suffer a brutal knockout at the hands of two-division champion Amanda Nunes this past summer.
Now, Holm is gearing up for a rematch against Pennington at UFC 246. At age 38, there’s no denying that her best days are likely behind her. However, she has continued to say that she believes she can still compete for a title.
If she is set on achieving that goal, a win this weekend is a necessity. If she once again comes up short, she will be seen as nothing more than a gatekeeper at this stage of her career.
Lastly, Pettis, who once seemed destined to be the sport’s next big star, will return at UFC 246 as well.
After claiming the 155-pound strap with a victory over Benson Henderson, Pettis’ career has been a bit sporadic. He defended his title against Gilbert Melendez after 16 months of dealing with injuries but then lost three straight bouts.
After bouncing back with a victory over Charles Oliveira in his featherweight debut, Pettis has gone on to lose four of his last seven bouts. Dropping down to 145 pounds has also proven to be a mistake, as his last two bouts have been contested at welterweight.
Making a return to 170 pounds last March, “Showtime” scored an emphatic knockout over Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. He then followed that victory up with a relatively one-sided loss to Nate Diaz in August.
Now, however, Pettis will be making his return to lightweight. He’s set to take on Carlos Diego Ferreira on the main card of UFC 246. And at age 32 with more than 30 fights on his record, Showtime will be looking to prove something.
First, he’ll need to prove that he can still safely make the 156-pound lightweight limit. He’ll also need to prove that he can still perform well at the weight.
Ferreira is certainly a tough opponent. But, the Brazilian is an opponent that Pettis will need to overcome in order to keep his title aspirations alive.
If he puts on a vintage Showtime performance, perhaps he can make another run to the top of the division he once ruled. If not, he may, like Holm, find himself serving more of the role of a gatekeeper.