‘I’d Snap You in Half:’ Drama Behind McGregor-Cowboy Rivalry

Conor McGregor and Donald Cerrone

Getty Conor McGregor at the Barclays Center during the Mayweather vs. McGregor World Press Tour and Donald Cerrone at the Daytona International Speedway.

On January 18, a fight that’s more than four years in the making will finally take place. Conor “Notorious” McGregor and Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone will be locked in a cage at UFC 246, and after the two go toe-to-toe, one man will have their hand raised in victory.

UFC 246 takes place January 18 at 10 p.m. Eastern time. It will air as a pay-per-view on ESPN+.

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The matchup between the two UFC stars has been on the wish list of fans for years, ever since 2014’s UFC Go Big press conference. To remind fans of the history between Cowboy and McGregor, the UFC has posted a video on its Instagram page. It features key moments of the two crossing paths in the promotion.

The clips in the video all represent building blocks for UFC 246’s main event, including the birth of their rivalry.

The video begins with Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier facing off during the UFC 178 Media Day. The two fighters were days away from their featherweight clash, and the animosity was palpable. McGregor was a rising star in the UFC, and Poirier was a hardened veteran ready to give McGregor his toughest test up to that point.

Cerrone was set to compete against Eddie Alvarez on the same card. Alvarez was making his UFC debut, entering the promotion with a lot of hype as he was a two-time Bellator lightweight champion. Their stare down was a lot more civil than McGregor’s and Poirier’s.

This was the first time McGregor and Cerrone fought on the card, with McGregor’s bout as the third fight of the main card and Cerrone’s as the co-main event.

McGregor and Poirier met in the center of the Octagon in September 2014 at UFC 178, and in only two minutes, McGregor landed his famous left hand, dropping Poirier to the canvas. McGregor followed up with strikes, and the match was waved off by referee Herb Dean.

The next fight up was Cerrone’s. The fight went the full three rounds, and due in part to his vicious leg kicks, Cowboy earned a unanimous decision win, spoiling Alvarez’s UFC debut.

Fighting back-to-back on one of the biggest pay-per-views of the year was McGregor’s and Cowboy’s first UFC experience together.

McGregor & Cerrone Were on the Same Fight Card in 2015

The video then shows a clip of Cerrone approaching McGregor a few days before January 2015’s UFC Fight Night: McGregor vs. Siver. It was a friendly encounter with the two shaking hands, Cowboy asking the Irishman if it was cold in Ireland, and Notorious asking how Cowboy’s body felt. Cerrone even gave Notorious some words of encouragement: “Give them hell.”

This was the second card the two were scheduled on together. Cowboy was placed in the co-main event against former lightweight champ Benson Henderson, and McGregor was headlining the card opposite Dennis Siver.

Both fighters won that night, with Cowboy winning an extremely close decision over Henderson and McGregor defeating Siver by second-round TKO.

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Things Got Heated Later in 2015 When Cowboy Said McGregor Had ‘No Chance’ & McGregor Said to Cowboy: ‘I’d Snap You in Half’

After this event, both Cowboy and McGregor went their separate ways until September 2015. The promotion hosted the massive UFC Go Big press conference to promote all the marquee fights coming up for the rest of the year.

McGregor was at the press conference to hype up his fight against featherweight champion Jose Aldo, and Cerrone was taking part to promote his lightweight championship bout against kingpin Rafael dos Anjos. Notorious was in full form during the presser, tearing down everyone that he could.

This was truly the start of the Notorious and Cowboy rivalry.

UFC’s Instagram video shows off the famous altercation. After McGregor’s verbal beatdown of Rafael dos Anjos, Cowboy chimed in:

“Conor has no right coming up to ’55. There’s no way; he’s not gonna stand a chance,” Cerrone said. “We’re too big for him, too strong, so you can take your little English a— and get on.”

McGregor quickly fired back:

“You’re too slow and too stiff, you’re as stiff as a board. I’d snap you in half,” he said. “I see stiffness when I look in that 155-pound division. Slow, stiff. I feel like they’re stuck in the mud almost. The featherweights they hit like flyweights. So, it’s nice down there just destroying them and killing that whole division. But I have my eye on that 155 division, and I see them all stuck in the mud.”

Cerrone reminds McGregor that he needs to focus on his opponent, Aldo, instead of the lightweights. He then exclaimed, “you beat nobody, and you think you’re going to come up to 155 and make a statement? Come on man, sit the f—k down.”

McGregor’s response? “Yee-haw!”

The exchange was over, but the rivalry had just begun. At this point, in many fans’ eyes, the fight between Notorious and Cowboy had to happen.

UFC 246 airs January 18 at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+. You can order it here.

Cowboy & McGregor Were on the Same Card Again at UFC 202

The video then cuts to Cerrone’s match at UFC 202: Diaz vs. McGregor 2, when he finished Rick Story with an incredible combo that will forever live in Cerrone’s highlight reel.

In one of the most exciting fights in UFC history, McGregor was able to avenge his first loss in the promotion during the main event of the evening. Notorious defeated Nate Diaz via majority decision in a back-and-forth war that pushed both fighters to the brink.

Both fighters won their bouts that night in August 2016, but it would be another three and a half years before Cowboy and McGregor were booked to compete against each other.

Cowboy Called Out McGregor After His Win in Ottawa in 2019

The video posted by the UFC doesn’t show Cowboy’s callout of McGregor after he defeated Al Iaquinta in May 2019, at UFC Fight Night: Iaquinta vs. Cowboy.

Here is Donald Cerrone’s post-fight interview:

“Dad Cerrone” is interviewed by Michael Bisping while holding his son Dacson in his arms. Cerrone revealed that he had his eyes set on a title shot unless a certain Irishman was willing to fight in July.

“I want the title, whatever that means man. Unless Conor McGregor, you want to fight me in July. I’m ready. Fourth of July, let’s do it.”

Cowboy called Notorious out, and the fans in the building erupted.

As history has it, McGregor did not want to fight in July, and Cowboy ended up fighting two more times after the callout.

Cowboy and McGregor Finally Sign the Contract

It has been more than four years since the UFC Go Big press conference, but the time has finally come for McGregor and Cerrone to stand across from each other in the Octagon.

UFC 246 will be headlined by a fight that fans have been excited about for years. On Jan. 18, Cowboy and Notorious will enter the black cage, and one man will be left standing.

UFC 246 airs January 18 at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+. You can order it here.

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