LAS VEGAS — If Conor McGregor is a man of his word, then the UFC and its partnership with ESPN should do big business in 2020. Arguably, the sport’s most popular fighter, McGregor says he plans to fight three times this year after fighting just twice for the UFC since November 2016.
He will end a 15-month layoff Saturday night (10 PM, ESPN+ PPV). when he faces Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone at UFC 246 at T-Mobile Arena. It is the first appearance for McGregor as part of the partnership signed a year ago between the UFC and ESPN, which live-streamed the main card on ESPN Plus PPV. McGregor, 31, has said all week that he plans to be more active, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s non-title welterweight bout.
“God willing I get out safe Saturday night, whoever is up next, I’m up for March,” McGregor said. “You’re going to see a lot of me here. Happy days for all of you also.”
Happy days, indeed. Happy days for the UFC. Happy days for Las Vegas. Happy days for ESPN, and happy days for his future opponents, who are looking to receive rich paydays to fight him. Cerrone is said to be making $2 million for his fight with McGregor, easily the largest purse of his career. UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and Bad Mother F—- champion Jorge Masvidal are in Las Vegas this week and both have expressed interest in facing McGregor.
“It’s the McGregor multi-million dollar fight club,” McGregor said. “Donald is up next. This will be a multi-million dollar payday for Donald, coming up from a couple of hundred thousand. Think about how many times he’s made that walk and he’s never made the seven-figure mark. I’m proud of that. And proud of the position I’m in. You best believe all their eyes are lighting up when Notorious’ name is mentioned.”
First things first. McGregor needs to look good against Cerrone, a veteran fighter, who is coming off two straight losses. The Irishman looked strong and solid making the 170-pound weight limit on the nose, but carried an uncertainty of his how the added weight and rust would impact his performance in the Octagon.
If all goes well, McGregor could fight again in the spring and in the fall. He’s open to facing either Tony Ferguson or Khabib Nurmagomedov. Those two are scheduled to face each other at UFC 249 for Nurmagomedov’s lightweight belt. Before Saturday night, McGregor hadn’t been in the Octagon since being submitted by Nurmagomedov at UFC 229 in October 2018.
“I would like to face both of these men,” McGregor said, adding, “I’d like a bout with Tony at some stage and the rematch, we must make that rematch [with Nurmagomedov]. Both men are certainly in the cross hairs.
And don’t be surprised if one of McGregor’s fights this year is a boxing match. Manny Pacquiao seems to be making himself an option. Pacquiao’s manager Sean Gibbons tweeted a fictional fight poster of Pacquiao and McGregor. Though no serious negotiations have taken place, McGregor has already envisioned fighting Pacquiao in the new football stadium being built for the Raiders.
“I would love to be the first combatant to fight in that arena,” McGregor said. “What a fight that would be against Manny, a small powerful southpaw. We’d have to figure out the weight, but it’s something that interests me, no doubt.”
McGregor made nearly $100 million in a boxing match with Floyd Mayweather in 2017. McGregor was stopped in the 10th round, but thinks he might fare better in a rematch.
“I thought I did well,” McGregor said. “I won rounds. I hit him more times than Manny hit him. I think with small adjustments in the preparation and a better understanding of what style he’s coming at me with, I think I beat him. I really do think I beat him.”
McGregor said one of his ultimate goals would be to win a world boxing title.
“What a feather in the cap that would be,” he said. “To be a dual-weight MMA world champion and then to acquire a boxing world title. I always aspire to reach higher and higher and reach for the stars. With activity, with consistency and with structure I can do anything.”