Thu | Apr 2, 2020

Back with a bang! - Conor McGregor blasts Cerrone in 40 seconds in UFC return

Published:Monday | January 20, 2020 | 12:29 AM
Conor McGregor (left) hits Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone during a UFC 246 welterweight mixed martial arts bout Saturday, January 18, in Las Vegas.
Conor McGregor (left) hits Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone during a UFC 246 welterweight mixed martial arts bout Saturday, January 18, in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS (AP):

Conor McGregor’s opening flurry – a punch that missed, followed by shoulder and elbow shots to the face – bloodied Donald Cerrone’s nose. He then floored Cerrone only 20 seconds into the bout with a perfectly placed kick to the head, and he mercilessly finished on the ground.

When he paraded around the ring with an Irish flag on his shoulders to celebrate, the mixed martial arts world knew McGregor is back with a big bang.

The Irish former two-division champion came out of a three-year stretch of relative inactivity and outside-the-cage troubles with a welterweight performance in UFC 246 on Saturday night that echoed his greatest fights during his unparalleled rise.

“I feel really good, and I came out of here unscathed,” McGregor said. “I’m in shape. We’ve got work to do to get back to where I was.”

After hurting Cerrone (36-14) with his first punch, McGregor (22-4) dropped him with a sublime kick to the jaw. McGregor pounced and forced referee Herb Dean to save Cerrone, delighting a sellout crowd of 19,040 at T-Mobile Arena.

McGregor’s hand hadn’t been raised in victory since November 2016, when he stopped lightweight Eddie Alvarez to become the first fighter in UFC history to hold two championship belts simultaneously. With his fame and fortune multiplying, McGregor fought only his boxing match with Floyd Mayweather in 2017, and he lost a one-sided UFC bout to lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in late 2018.

“I wasn’t committed,” McGregor said afterwards while speaking to reporters with a bottle of his Proper Twelve whiskey on the table before him. “I just felt like I disrespected the people that believed in me and supported me. That’s what led me to re-centre myself and get back to where I was at.”

After a year spent out of competition and in repeated trouble with the law, McGregor got back into training and vowed to return to elite form. This dramatic victory over Cerrone indicated he’s well on his way, and McGregor has vowed to fight multiple times in 2020.

Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and veteran brawler Jorge Masvidal watched UFC 246 from cageside. Either man could be McGregor’s next opponent, but UFC President Dana White is pushing for a rematch with Nurmagomedov, who first fights Tony Ferguson in April.

“Any one of these mouthy fools can get it,” McGregor yelled into the microphone. “Every single one of them can get it. It does not matter. I’m back and I’m ready.”

McGregor also wants to make up for his loss to Nurmagomedov, but he doesn’t want to wait until the champion is ready to fight again in late summer. McGregor wants an earlier fight, and he predicted that the Nurmagomedov-Ferguson fight will be scrapped, as it already has been – four times during those fighters’ careers.