On Thanksgiving, UFC President Dana White gave UFC fans and the sport of MMA something to be thankful for as he announced that Conor McGregor will fight Donald Cerrone at UFC 246 on January 18th, 2020. For some fans, this announcement is also considered an early Christmas present.
Since the summer, there’s been consistent chatter and speculations over who McGregor would fight in his return to the octagon. In mid-October, it appeared that McGregor was going to fight Frankie Edgar as both men agreed to a bout on social media.
Unfortunately for Edgar, UFC fights aren’t made through Twitter, but through the office of UFC President Dana White. Although many UFC fighters were lobbying for a fight with McGregor and the big pay day, that honor goes to one of the most beloved fighters in all of MMA Donald Cerrone.
With that said, bookies have released their odds for this UFC 246 fight. McGregor has opened up as a large betting favorite over Cerrone despite not having fought since October 2018. Let’s step inside the betting octagon to examine these Conor McGregor betting odds.
Before most people could do their Black Friday shopping, UFC betting websites released odds for the upcoming Conor McGregor vs Donald Cerrone fight.
Conor McGregor opened as the favorite with betting odds ranging from -225 to -255. The last time McGregor opened at this high of a betting favorite was the first Nate Diaz fight in 2016. McGregor opened as a -300 betting favorite and closed at -585.
The “Cowboy” Donald Cerrone opened as a sizable underdog at a range of +170 to +215 betting odds. This is on par with the odds for his last two fights when he opened at +210 to Justin Gaethje in September and +175 to Tony Ferguson in June.
Why Did the UFC Choose Cerrone for McGregor’s Return?
The UFC chose Cerrone as Conor’s opponent for a few reasons, but McGregor accepted this matchup for one main reason – it’s a winnable fight. For the UFC, it’s also going to be a very popular fight at the box office and with PPV buys.
Conor McGregor is the sport’s greatest PPV attraction. He’s surpassed both Ronda Rousey and Brock Lesnar to become UFC’s biggest PPV meal ticket. To capitalize on his PPV draw and to kick off the New Year on a high, they had to put McGregor in the octagon with an opponent that fans would want to see.
That’s where Cerrone comes in. The Cowboy isn’t the promoter that McGregor is, but he’s more popular with the fans and he’s more respected by his peers than Conor is. Additionally, he won’t try to just take this fight to the mat and bore the crowd. Cerrone will push the action and turn this into an exciting fight.
With the promotion’s massive success at UFC 244 where Jorge Masvidal took on Nate Diaz in the main event with a made up title on the line, this McGregor vs Cerrone fight feels of similar ilk. In other words, it’s a way to capitalize on interest and popularity without needing any championship title. A winning decision for all involved.
In addition to McGregor believing this is a winnable fight, there are a few other key factors in why “Notorious” accepted the Cerrone bout. Those reasons can be found in ESPN MMA analyst Ariel Helwani’s intelligent response to the news of this fight:
“I like this fight for him a lot. I didn’t like the idea of an immediate rematch versus Nurmagomedov. It was too soon for that. Bottom line is, he needs a win. He needs to get his mojo back. He needs to get the fans on his side again. This is a winnable fight against a popular fighter. You see, I’m a big fan of tune-up fights. Now, I’m not saying Cerrone is a tune-up. Far from it. But he’s not the champion nor the No. 1 contender, and that’s who McGregor was talking about facing. Forget that for now. Slow and steady.”
Too Soon for a UFC Title Rematch
After how thoroughly Khabib Nurmagomedov beat Conor McGregor at UFC 229, it’s universally accepted that McGregor didn’t deserve a rematch. It would be one thing if he was the champion and lost his title, but he wasn’t. Nurmagomedov was the champion and he soundly defeated McGregor.
Furthermore, Tony Ferguson is the man that everyone wants to see against Nurmagomedov next. And, UFC President Dana White declared that those two top ranked lightweights will face off in April.
Since there’s no realistic scenario where McGregor can get a title rematch in his UFC return, his team and the promotion did the next best thing for Conor and the promotion.
He Needs to Get His Mojo Back
When McGregor rose up the ranks to become the sport’s most popular star, he did it by beating talented opponents in entertaining fashion. He developed an aura about him and had a swagger that attracted fans around the world.
Since the loss to Nurmagomedov, McGregor has lost that aura, that swagger, that mojo. He needs to get the mojo back and he can do so with this fight. Cerrone has a distinguished resume with the most ever UFC wins (23) and finishes (16).
If McGregor can come into this fight and get a solid TKO/KO win, it will give him some mojo back and serve as a stepping stone to a bigger fight in the summer. It’s also a win that fight fans will respect.
Needs to Get Fans on His Side Again
Speaking of fans, McGregor needs to get them back on his side again. With all of the legal issues that McGregor has faced over the last year, including beating up an older man in a bar, McGregor’s stock is the lowest it’s been in quite some time.
While he still has a loyal following with his fellow countrymen and diehard McGregor fans throughout the world, the casual MMA fans have jumped ship. It’s these fans that McGregor could use back on his side as they will help propel his brand back to the top of the fight game.
In January, @Cowboycerrone predicted he'd fight Conor McGregor "in Vegas at T-Mobile [Arena] and sell the m—– f—– out."
“I respect “Cowboy” and everything he’s done but I do think he’s on the back end of his career. It’s “Cowboy,” he can show up and submit or knock out Conor as well. I’m not counting the guy completely out but I do think that is a more favorable fight for him on his return. Fight a guy who’s been KO’d or TKO’d twice in his past two fights. I’m not a matchmaker. I think me and [Conor] makes more sense.”
Poirier has spent the majority of 2019 seemingly lobbying for a fight with McGregor. Unfortunately for Dustin, he’s been shut down every step of the way by Conor because McGregor already defeated Poirier in 2014 via 1st round TKO.
Another UFC fighter upset with McGregor’s choice of opponents is Justin Gaethje. On a recent appearance of Michael Bisping’s podcast, Gaethje talked about McGregor and wanting a fight against Nurmagomedov:
“If Conor McGregor can fight Donald Cerrone and jump over me to fight Khabib, then I get it’s all about money, but I’m sitting right here, I’m f****** ready to go. I’m training. Donald Cerrone just got finished two times in a row. I get that Conor’s coming off a loss, but he’s calling for a title fight. If you want a title fight, you have to go through me, you cannot go through anybody else. You can go through Poirier, s***, me and Poirier, that’s the honest truth.”
Over the last few months, there’s been one fighter that I’ve consistently said McGregor should fight and that’s Justin Gaethje. I believed the winner of Gaethje and McGregor would end up as the #1 contender for the UFC lightweight title and take on the winner of Nurmagomedov and Ferguson.
Perhaps, there’s still a chance of this happening. If McGregor can defeat Cerrone then maybe he can fight Gaethje in the summer.
Who Wins Between McGregor and Cerrone?
Although I’m a big fan of Donald Cerrone, I have doubts that he will win this fight. McGregor has had plenty of time to train and get healthy for his return. Furthermore, Cerrone has lost his last two fights via TKO where Gaethje put him out on the mat.
McGregor has the striking skills to score a TKO/KO and he could do this if he’s still at the top of his game. Cerrone is tailing off in his career and not at the same level as other fighters like Ferguson or Gaethje.
I will never call Cerrone a “tune-up fight,” but that’s the thinking behind the UFC and Team Conor. As for betting on this exciting matchup, take McGregor to win.
As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at GamblingSites.org to become the self-professed "King of the Blog" in his first year with the site. ...
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