UFC President Dana White recently announced that Conor McGregor will make his long-awaited return to the octagon this January.
Following his high profile loss to Khabib in 2018, potential matchups for “The Notorious” fighter included Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, a rematch with Dustin Poirier, or the lightweight Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje.
“Conor has signed and Cerrone is ready to go.”
— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) November 28, 2019
A win in any of those opponents, especially against Gaethje, who is on a destructive streak — taking wins off the likes of Edson Barboza, James Vick, and “Cowboy” Cerrone, would be just the thing McGregor’s career needs right now.
Give this situation to a boxing promoter or even a reasonably knowledgable fan, and the call is easy to make.
Although announced at the end of last month, in a radio interview earlier this week, White reconfirmed McGregor’s fight against Cerrone at 170.
For the Irish lightweight, going toe-to-toe with Cerrone gives him the chance to grab a highlight reel KO against a big mainstream name. However, since the UFC officially announced this fight, a wave of negativity has hit the shores of Twitter.
Dana White on @jimrome:
-Conor wants to face Khabib as quickly as possible after Cerrone fight
-Confirms that he will be working with Floyd Mayweather and they have a deal. If things play out as planned, he will sit down with Al Heymon in March and get a deal on paper
— Aaron Bronsteter (@aaronbronsteter) December 5, 2019
This pairing, albeit not entirely unexpected, has some saying this is tune up fight in McGregor’s favor.
Tune up fights are not only accepted in boxing, but they are expected for certain situations.
A high profile loss for a big name often leads to a winnable battle against an opponent that’s as high profile as possible while still being beatable. It gives the big name a chance to show he still has what it takes and can be built up to another high profile fight.
An example of this is Manny Pacquiao’s bout in Macau against Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios.
Pacquiao was just coming off a brutal KO loss to Juan Manuel Marquez and had been out of the ring for a year. Rios was a multiple-time champion but was not in his natural weight class and had been in wars against “Mile High” Alvarado in the previous years.
After winning by unanimous decision, Pacquiao eventually built up to the “Fight of The Century” against Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The UFC putting McGregor up against “Cowboy” Cerrone was a smart move, even if some fans were calling for McGregor vs. Gaethje.
The risk involved in that fight is immense in comparison to a match against the “Cowboy.” As a corporation, the UFC can take from the boxing model in this fashion as a way to protect their investment.
The amount of money that is spent and generated when Conor fights is much too large to risk against a fighter like Gaethje, and as we can see with the Pacquiao example, a tuneup can lead to a pot of gold at the end of the McRainbow.