Conor McGregor, the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s biggest star, is finally back in the octagon after a 15-month absence.
More than three years after losing to the boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a highly popular crossover bout, and after tapping out against Khabib Nurmagomedov in October 2018, McGregor is scheduled to headline U.F.C. 246 on Saturday night. The 31-year-old former champion in two weight classes will face Donald Cerrone, a kickboxing specialist from Albuquerque who is known professionally as Cowboy.
Leading up to the fight, McGregor has presented himself as mature and focused, still capable of spectacular violence in the octagon, but also promising that the numerous legal problems that derailed his 2019 are behind him.
McGregor, despite his absence, is the promotion’s best-known fighter. McGregor’s fans packed smaller events in Las Vegas leading up to the fight, and this week Reebok announced the release of a new shoe endorsed by McGregor. That a fighter who hasn’t won a bout since 2016 can generate this much attention from fans and sponsors highlights McGregor’s flair for self-promotion.
But he still has to fight.
Before he does, here are some things to keep in mind:
The 15-month span between McGregor’s loss to Nurmagomedov and Saturday night’s fight with Cerrone is the second-longest layoff of McGregor’s mixed martial arts career, and it’s not clear how the time off might affect his skills in the octagon.
McGregor spent nearly two years away from the octagon before he lost to Nurmagomedov, a period that included his big-money boxing match with Mayweather. The time off might have contributed to the loss, but the undefeated Nurmagomedov was a difficult opponent for McGregor no matter what.
Cerrone, in contrast, has been one of the U.F.C.’s busiest athletes. He competed four times in 2019 alone, winning twice and losing twice.
McGregor is a former featherweight and lightweight champion, but Saturday’s bout will take place in the welterweight division, where the 170-pound weight limit could favor the taller Cerrone.
McGregor has spent the vast majority of his career competing in the 145- and 155-pound divisions, and has only competed twice as a welterweight. In March 2016 he lost by submission to Nick Diaz, and five months later he defeated Diaz by submission.
Cerrone fought exclusively as welterweight for more than two years, winning six fights and losing four between February 2016 and November 2018. But all of his bouts in 2019 took place in the 155-pound class.