Conor McGregor defied his critics with an irresistible performance to overwhelm Donald Cerrone on his UFC comeback, stopping the teak tough American in 40 seconds in their welterweight bout in Las Vegas.
McGregor made light work of an opponent who boasted the most fights (34), most wins (23) and most finishes (16) in UFC history, quietening those who felt the Irishman’s best days were behind him.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at a few issues that arose from McGregor’s thrilling display at the T-Mobile Arena.
How impressive was this win?
Very. This was only McGregor’s second mixed martial arts fight since November 2016 and first in 15 months, when he was systematically broken down by nemesis Khabib Nurmagomedov. Cerrone may be a step down from the Russian but he is still a handful for anyone and McGregor manhandled him in a way nobody else has done in 51 fights. The unorthodox shoulder strikes bloodied Cerrone’s nose and may have broken it while a precision head kick and flying knee was followed by a ruthless ground and pound, with McGregor getting the job done in less than a minute.
Is the McGregor of old back?
As a former featherweight and lightweight champion – and the first to hold two belts simultaneously – McGregor’s legacy is already assured while the fortune he has earned through fighting and other ventures means he is set for life. Put simply, he does not need to carry on in a dangerous sport, but it seems his zeal is back after it was temporarily extinguished around the time of the Nurmagomedov fight. To get back into the winning column and doing so with a demolition job over a respected veteran will put the top contenders between 155lbs and 170lbs on notice.
Will he stay at welterweight?
There were some raised eyebrows about McGregor coming back at 170lbs, given his struggles against Nate Diaz, and there remains a suspicion anyone who can withstand his power will give the Dubliner a very hard night. McGregor claims his focus is on remaining active rather than who he fights, and says he would welcome a meeting against UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman or ‘BMF’ beltholder Jorge Masvidal. Usman would be a stylistic nightmare in the mould of Nurmagomedov for McGregor, who it is suspected would privately prefer the more uncomplicated Masvidal.
Speaking of Khabib, what about a rematch?
“Khabib versus Conor is the biggest fight in the sport’s history.” UFC president Dana White was transparent when asked who he would like Conor to face next. The bad blood in the build-up to their first encounter which spilled over in a post-fight melee after Nurmagomedov defeated McGregor for the lightweight title in October 2018 has not been forgotten or forgiven on either side. While Nurmagomedov has ruled out the prospect of a return bout, he has more immediate priorities in the shape of Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 in April. Ferguson has also been linked with a showdown against McGregor.
What about Mayweather?
Not one to let an opportunity slip by, Floyd Mayweather reacted to McGregor’s win by uploading two mock fight posters on Instagram, one depicting a showdown against the Irishman and another against Nurmagomedov. Mayweather took his perfect professional record to 50-0 when McGregor challenged him to a highly lucrative boxing bout in August 2017 before retiring. He has already announced his intention to compete in 2020, and when asked about the American, McGregor responded: “Floyd is a funny man, the discussions are always ongoing, they never stop. He’s far from retired and that rematch will happen at some stage.”
Is there anybody else in the frame?
Mayweather’s great rival Manny Pacquiao is also a potential future foe. The multi-weight world champion was more understated than Mayweather as he wrote “The Notorious!!!” – McGregor’s nickname – on social media moments after his victory. One of McGregor’s goals before retiring from combat sports is to win a world title in boxing and facing Pacquiao, the current WBA welterweight champion, would be sure to whet his appetite.