by Jordy McElroy
Even when former two-division UFC champion Conor McGregor rarely takes part, he’s still taking over the combat sports world.
There is a different buzz in the air of fight week with the biggest superstar in MMA history slated to headline UFC 246 against Donald Cerrone on Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena in Paradise. The city name is ironically appropriate considering there is no greater utopia for fight fans than witnessing Mystic Mac and Cowboy exchange fists in the Octagon.
For all of McGregor’s shortcomings outside of the cage, there is no questioning his fighting spirit once he steps onto the elevated canvas to display his art. Even the naysayers are buzzing about his return to fighting. Yes, the same diehard mob squad that deemed him irrelevant is now sitting as erect as a PEZ dispenser willing to buy whatever he’s selling.
It’s the sleight of hand of a master showman.
Not only does McGregor boast an aesthetically pleasing fighting style that appeases insatiable fans, but he has also inspired legions of mainstream audiences with everything from fashion to the way he walks.
UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is the greatest 155-pound fighter on the planet, and there’s a good chance a casual fan at the bar still couldn’t even pick him out of a lineup. McGregor is a common link for fight fans of all generations: the grandparents that were glued to the television screen when Muhammad Ali proclaimed to be the greatest of all time; the parents that grew up watching Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield commandeer the heavyweight boxing division and the young adults that witnessed the rapid growth of MMA into the mecca it has presently become.
Whether casual or hardcore, there is something in a McGregor fight for every fan.
Some have casually pointed to the fact that he hasn’t won a fight in over three years, as if that’s going to keep people from buying a ticket or ordering UFC 246. It will still be one of the highest-grossing pay-per-view events in 2020 for the mere fact that McGregor is still as relevant as ever. Of course, he’d be even more relevant if he goes out there and takes care of business on Saturday night.
UFC President Dana White is likely already pondering the many marquee options that would be available with a McGregor victory. The company could move forward with the much-anticipated lightweight championship rematch with Nurmagomedov, or they could entertain the idea of putting a super fight together with BAMF champion Jorge Masvidal.
There’s also the opportunity to delve back into the world of boxing again for a prizefight with Manny Pacquiao or a rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The options are endless.
McGregor’s only losses in the UFC have come to Nurmagomedov and Diaz. One is arguably the greatest lightweight in MMA history, while the other is a loss that has already been avenged. So it isn’t like McGregor has fallen off the abyss into some deep black hole of irrelevance. He is still a central figure where UFC gold is concerned, and the mining expedition is finally set to resume on Saturday.
When the lights dim and Sinead O’Connor’s “The Foggy Dew” hits, there will be no questioning who the people came to see.