Image Credit- Business Insider
Conor McGregor’s long anticipated return marked his first bout in over a year, with fans of both him and the sport as a whole eagerly waiting for Bruce Buffer to declare the famous words “It’s Time!”
The McGregor of previous years was not to be found at least in his press conferences, with the arrogant and provocative displays of insults and mockery instead being substituted for a much more humble and accepting approach, with the star emphasising that he had made mistakes and sought a form of redemption.
Not only has McGregor been out of the ring for over a year, his last fight being a devastating and humiliating loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov, but during this period his various misdemeanours have gained very public attention.
Alleged rumours of cheating coincided with an aggravated assault charge on an individual in a bar, leaving the once double lightweight and featherweight champion at his lowest stock in his professional career.
Many, including McGregor himself, were wary that a loss to Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone would almost certainly spark the beginning of the end, but boy did he deliver.
The fight itself was vintage McGregor, immediately rushing in with flying knees and vicious body shots. Whilst in the clinch, his use of the shoulders to combat Cerrone’s guard was intuitive and difficult to defend against.
The swinging arc of his headkick rendered his opponent nearly unconscious and after several attempts of ground and pound, referee Herb Dean was left with no option but to stop the fight, just forty seconds in.
Draped in the amber, white and green of the Irish flag, first-round victory secured and the doubters silenced, McGregor mounted the Octagon with pride and undeniably a sense of relief.
This display of skill and intent certainly puts him back into serious contention for future title fights, the level that his talent and popularity in the sport arguably deserves. The Irishman’s status as the most lucrative fighter on the roster, with this match alone being bought by an estimated 2 million people on the paper view platform, further strengthens his argument for future title fights.
At a time where MMA and boxing go head to head in a battle of the ratings, McGregor’s ability to draw in the casual fan is evidently a huge asset to CEO Dana White, and his return no doubt will have financial gain for many involved in the UFC.
But for now the speculation continues. Rumours of a completion of the Diaz trilogy are circling, with Tony Ferguson and ‘BMF’ Jorge Masvidal also in the pipeline.
The most demanded and probably the most marketable next step would be the Khabib re-match, but fears of ill-blood and a repeat of the descent into sheer chaos at the last match may prevent this from being agreed upon soon.
What can be agreed upon is the success of this victory both for McGregor personally and the sport as a whole. UFC’s favourite son has returned, and we’re happy to have him back.