Conor McGregor has never followed a conventional path during his time in the UFC, and his track record is proof positive.
“I broke the game before I was even 30,” said the Irish superstar, who makes his return to the Octagon Saturday night against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in what will be his first bout since October 2018. “But that’s the past. I’m focused on the present, focused on creating many more magical moments inside the Octagon.”
So is McGregor now joining the masses, shouting “New Year, New Me?”
Not exactly. But he does promise that he won’t be the same fighter he was the last time we saw him in a loss to lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
“Full commitment,” he said of his approach to the UFC 246 main event. “Assessing what I need to do and doing it, taking control of my camp. Sometimes you just go through the motions and you tell yourself things but you don’t execute them. This time I took control of it and I was on top of it and I enjoyed it. I feel the benefits from it.”
He’s also focusing just as much on what happens outside the gym as what happens in it.
“It’s outside of it that makes the difference,” he said. “If you’re not switched on outside of it, if it’s not in your thinking outside of the game or outside of the gym, it’s easy to switch off and it’s easy to lose focus. And then when you come back in, you’re not as sharp or as up for it, and it’s a slippery slope.”
At 31, McGregor knows what he has to do. And he’s willing to do it.
“Activity is what I plan this year,” he said. “The opponent does not matter. It can be Jorge (Masvidal), it can be Kamaru (Usman), it can be the Khabib rematch, it can be Tony (Ferguson), it can be Justin (Gaethje). There’s a whole host of brilliant names. It could be Max (Holloway). I don’t care. Activity is what I’m after.”
And when the Dubliner is active, he’s been a special fighter.
“I’ve had many iconic moments and many great moments and that came through commitment and consistency and constant hard work,” said McGregor, who fought twice each in 2013 and 2014, three times in 2015 and three times in 2016.
In 2017, he fought once – in a boxing match against Floyd Mayweather Jr. – and in 2018 was the Nurmagomedov fight. Those were lucrative nights, but not good for his ego or fighting record. But he promises that things will change come Saturday night.
“Everyone always says, when are we getting the old Conor back, we want to get the 2016 Conor back,” he said. “I’d smoke that guy. I’m in a great fighting state of mind.”
He’s got a willing dance partner in Cerrone, the man who put “Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere” on the map in the UFC. There will not likely be a wrestling match breaking out at T-Mobile Arena this weekend, and that’s just what McGregor wants – a fist fight unencumbered by such matters as a weight cut to 155 pounds, hence the bout taking place at welterweight.
“I’ve been out just over a year,” he explains. “I wanted to focus on my training and my preparation, no weight cut. I’ll use this now as a springboard to carry on through the year.”
And if he gets his wish to stay busy, what a year it could turn out to be.
“I was fighting for a better life,” McGregor said. “Now I’m fighting for the love.”
But first, Cowboy, and Mystic Mac keeps his prediction simple.
“This will be a flawless performance.”
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