January 14, 2020

UFC 246: Conor McGregor's Return Doesn't Seem Like the Big Deal It Should Be

By Adam Martin

For the first time since October 2018, UFC superstar Conor McGregor will step into the Octagon when he takes on Donald Cerrone this weekend in the main event of UFC 246. The Irishman didn't fight at all in 2019 due to a suspension and legal issues outside the cage, but he finally makes his return for what on paper should be a big fight in Vegas against one of the most popular fighters in the sport in Cerrone.
But for some reason, it just feels like there's something missing heading into UFC 246. Anytime McGregor steps into the Octagon is a big event, but this time out, fans don't seem as into McGregor as they usually are. It's hard to say exactly why that is, but there are a few possible reasons that fan interest appears to be lower than usual.

The first possibility is McGregor's relative inactivity over the last few years. The last time we saw McGregor in the Octagon was 14 months ago at UFC 229, where he was choked out by UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in the main event. Before that, his last fight in the UFC was way back in November 2016, when he beat Eddie Alvarez to capture the UFC Lightweight Championship. That was the height of McGregor's MMA career, and he parlayed that win over Alvarez into a massive payday for his boxing match against Floyd Mayweather in August 2017.

The fact that McGregor hasn't won a fight in over three years is a massive knock against him. Fans like fighters who win fights, and McGregor hasn't won in forever. MMA fans in particular are apt to turn on fighters once they start losing -- just look at their response to Ronda Rousey for an example of that. I don't think MMA fans have completely turned against McGregor yet, but they're close to doing so. They already don't care about McGregor as much as they used to. If he loses to Cerrone, they might lose all interest.

Another factor is likability. McGregor hasn't made it easy to root for him with all of the stuff going on with him outside the Octagon. He's been in numerous legal troubles over the last few years, and it's hard to cheer for someone who keeps acting out. Who can forget the bus attack before UFC 223? What about breaking a fan's cell phone? What about the sexual assault allegations? All of these things are red marks in McGregor's ledger. He could make people forget about these incidents with a big knockout win over Cerrone, but at least heading into this fight, it just feels like fan support is at an all-time low for McGregor.

Furthermore, this McGregor vs. Cerrone fight was booked on relatively short notice. It seemed like McGregor was teasing a comeback for months, but the fight wasn't officially announced until late November, and tickets didn't go on sale for it until December. With the holidays and New Year, this fight and event have just crept up on everyone, so that could also be a reason there doesn't seem to be much buzz for this fight as there usually is when McGregor is due to step into the Octagon.

But at the end of the day, it's Conor McGregor. He's still a huge name in the sporting world, and he knows how to sell a fight. With just a few days to go until fight night, it doesn't seem like UFC 246 is a big event, but that can certainly turn on a dime, especially with the press conference scheduled for Wednesday. By the time Saturday rolls around, fans could very well be just as excited as they typically are for a McGregor fight. But right now, it doesn't feel like a typical McGregor fight week. It just doesn't feel like as big of a deal as it should be.

UFC 246
Conor McGregor vs. Donald Cerrone

UFC 246: McGregor vs. Cowboy takes place January 18, 2020 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Click HERE for more UFC 246 Pre-Fight Analysis


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