Victory for Conor McGregor at UFC 246 Is First Step in Return to Top

Conor McGregor UFC 246

Getty UFC's Conor McGregor.

Conor McGregor hasn’t won a fight in over three years.

So while it’s true to say McGregor is still the biggest superstar in MMA right now, it’s just as true to admit that absolutely no one who follows the sport knows at this point in his career just how good of a fighter he really is anymore.

Heck, for all we know, McGregor will never win another fight in his life. Faster falls have happened throughout combat sports history than McGregor’s would be. In this case, there’s been at least a few fights notice.

McGregor’s last win was way back in 2016 when he won the UFC lightweight title with a stunning victory over Eddie Alvarez to become the first UFC fighter ever to hold titles in two weight classes at the same time.

But the UFC’s original “champ champ” has looked nothing like a champion as of late, so it’s imperative that the 31-year-old get back to his winning ways against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone at UFC 246 on Jan. 18 in Las Vegas.

In fact, beating Cerrone would be an incredible feat for the Irishman, especially if he can get through all the pre-fight promotional events and the immediate aftermath of the contest without finding himself standing in the center of a storm he helped create.

If that seems a bit harsh, consider how McGregor’s last UFC appearance went both before and after the event.

Conor McGregor’s Bus Attack During Khabib Nurmagomedov Fight

At UFC 229 in October 2018, McGregor tapped out to Khabib Nurmagomedov in what turned out to be the highest-selling UFC PPV event of all-time. But the promotion was littered with difficulties including the infamous bus attack McGregor led on Nurmagomedov and several other fighters that were in a backstage area of Barclays Center in Brooklyn for a UFC 223 media event.

McGregor eventually pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct and was sentenced to community service. But the Khabib-McGregor bout was soon after, and it seemed order would be restored the way these things tend to happen in combat sports. The two fighters would settle it inside the Octagon.

But things got even worse after the fight was announced. Even with UFC 229 offering the two fighters a sure-fire way to get their hands on each other, McGregor and Nurmagomedov just couldn’t keep themselves from making things a whole lot uglier as the date approached.

Conor McGregor-Khabib Nurmagomedov Fight Goes off the Rails

The massive build-up to this bout was PPV gold and caused an incredible stir in terms of media attention. But the ugly barbs and insults, including McGregor accusing Nurmagomedov’s manager of being a terrorist, made the main event at UFC 229 a pressure cooker that even Nurmagomedov’s winning choke couldn’t seem to keep the lid on.

The infamous and chaotic post-fight brawl even ended up spreading into the crowd that night, which obviously wasn’t a good look for anyone.

By the end of things, both fighters were suspended by the Nevada Athletic Commission for their role in the melee, and a dark cloud had been cast over what should have been Nurmagomedov’s greatest win.

Nurmagomedov received nine months for his role in the ruckus. He served the suspension and came back to defend his title in September 2019 with a third-round submission of Dustin Poirier at UFC 242.

McGregor was handed a six-month suspension, but maybe a life without the daily rigors of training made matters even worse.

Allegations Against Conor McGregor Outside of Octagon

In March 2019, McGregor suddenly found himself facing criminal charges in Florida for allegedly stealing and smashing a fan’s phone. The charges were later dropped, but video of the incident obtained and released by TMZ Sports didn’t do much to repair McGregor’s damaged reputation.

McGregor was under investigation in Ireland because of allegations of sexual assault, as reported by the New York Times. McGregor faced a second sexual assault allegation in October 2019, and as Tariq Panja of the New York Times detailed (h/t Bleacher Report), the fighter emphatically denied the report.

“Conor McGregor is frequently the subject of rumors,” McGregor’s publicist told Panja. “He emphatically denies any report accusing him of sexual assault.”

Amid the two allegations, a video of McGregor punching an older man sitting on a stool in a Dublin bar surfaced, via TMZ Sports in August. The fighter also had to dodge a shoe that was tossed at him by an angry fan during a press event in Moscow.

Conor McGregor’s Return Set to Take Center Stage

McGregor could stand to get back to doing what he does best right about now. The only problem with that is what McGregor used to do best – dominating inside the cage, might no longer be the thing he’s best at doing now.

If that’s the case, Cerrone is a good enough fighter to reveal it to everyone.

But maybe McGregor does have one more amazing feat left as part of his story. It’s not often someone as successful in a sport as McGregor experiences such a high level of adversity in the public eye, yet comes out on the other side of things on top – where many fans believe he belonged.

For all of McGregor’s headlines both in the octagon and outside of it, he’s still just 31 years old and theoretically should have a few good years left in his athletic prime.

Moreover, there’s certainly no shame in losing to a fighter as dominant as Nurmagomedov in what turned out to be a decently competitive fight. Similarly, there’s nothing to knock McGregor about in challenging the best boxer of the last 20 years in Floyd Mayweather Jr. to a fight inside a boxing ring the year prior and making it all the way to the 10th round.

Sure, McGregor hasn’t won a fight in over three years. But he’s faced the toughest opposition he could possibly find. It’s hard to find something wrong with that.

Besides, maybe all the difficulties he’s faced over the last few years have somehow turned him into a better fighter. Would it really be all that surprising to see McGregor explode to the top of the sport again?

That would be quite the feat for McGregor, as would simply getting back to being dominant on Jan. 18 against Cerrone at UFC 246.

READ NEXT: Conor McGregor’s Potential Floyd Mayweather Rematch Begins at UFC 246

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