Now that Conor McGregor is back in the mix for 2020, UFC has to be ready for anything and everything.
McGregor, who will return to the Octagon at UFC 246 later this month to face Donald Cerrone at 170 pounds, is one of the most game opponents in the sport today. Whether it’s filling in on short notice or taking on fights two weight classes above his own, “Notorious” has made a living out of cashing in when an opportunity presents itself.
Heading into 2020, in which McGregor plans to fight three times, UFC president Dana White understands that things may need to be moved around to accommodate the biggest matchups and any unforeseen injuries. So even though McGregor is preparing himself to fight “Cowboy” in a matter of weeks, White is penciling the Irishman in as a potential replacement for Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson set to go down at UFC 249 this April. After all, Khabib and Ferguson have been scheduled to fight four times in the past with each bout falling apart due to injury or botch weight cuts.
McGregor, who previously lost to Khabib via submission back at UFC 229, is banking on a likely fallout this April in order to wiggle his way into another title opportunity.
“Likely something will happen there, so I’ll be ready to slide in for that belt,” McGregor said of Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson in a recent interview with The Mac Life. “So I’ll just have a good solid camp at 170 with no weight cut, a good fight. I know Donald’s a good fighter. [He has] great records. Most knockdowns, most head kicks, most fights, most rounds. He’s got a lot of UFC records under his belt. So I’ll get a great camp, a great fight, and then it’ll take me into the year. I’m looking at this as a season. This was the beginning of the season. Donald was the first one that I agreed to have a bout with, and here we are.”
McGregor, who hasn’t competed since his loss to Khabib over 14 months ago, still remains the biggest star in the sport today. But considering the Irishman has one UFC victory under his belt over the past three years many fight fans believe he shouldn’t be in consideration for a title shot. That may be true, but if Khabib or Ferguson are struck with injury leading up to UFC 249, odds are the promotion will go with the money fight and slot McGregor into the main event.
That said, “Notorious” must first get past Cerrone at UFC 246 in order to have a chance to fill in at UFC 249. Cerrone is one of the most accomplished fighters in UFC history and a striker capable of changing levels to utilize elite submissions, so McGregor will have to be at his best to score his first win in over three years and recapture his UFC glory.