UFC

I want my world title back – McGregor targeting UFC return in 2019

By Sports Desk August 23, 2019

Conor McGregor is targeting a UFC comeback before the end of 2019 and is not concerned by who he fights.

Former featherweight and lightweight champion McGregor has not fought since losing to Khabib Nurmagomedov in October 2018.

In March, McGregor took to Twitter to claim he had retired from mixed martial arts, though he has subsequently changed his stance.

The 31-year-old, who has been embroiled in controversy out of the octagon in recent weeks, is now aiming to make a comeback by the close of the year.

"I want my world title back and I want that redemption," McGregor told ESPN.

"If you're asking me who, whoever, if Dustin [Poirier] goes in and does it, if Nate [Diaz], if it's Jorge [Masvidal].

"I don't know. I don't even know Jorge that well, I've seen the last two and I saw the Al Iaquinta bout, but I mean anyone.

"Tony Ferguson, Justin Gaethje, a [Max] Holloway rematch, Jose Aldo rematch. There's so many belts for me, so many. 

"In reality, it does not matter who. It's just about me getting back in. I would say we can get that done. 

"I'm already in shape. I have not lost my condition so I'm in shape. I just need to sharpen up the grappling and just see how the grip feels on the wrist and things like that. 

"But I can punch fully so I would say so. I would look for the end of the year."

McGregor also explained he had been due to return to UFC in July, only for a hand injury sustained in sparring to rule him out of contention.

"We scheduled a spar with another up-and-comer but the gloves are so small, the room for injury and damage is so high," he added.

"Originally I couldn't grapple until September but I saw my surgeon and he said I can grapple now so I'm going to go back into that.

"I haven't stopped kicking and I haven't stopped with my conditioning, so let's get it going now - I'm excited."

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    UFC president Dana White has compared Conor McGregor to boxing greats Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and Sugar Ray Leonard after the Irishman made his return to the Octagon.

    McGregor needed just 40 seconds to defeat Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone in Las Vegas on Saturday, as the 31-year-old marked his comeback after 15 months away from the Octagon in style.

    And White believes McGregor has now reached the same level as stardom as icons such as Ali, Tyson and Leonard.

    "[Conor] is such a huge superstar. I put him up there with Tyson, Leonard," White told a media conference.

    "All of them," he added when asked if McGregor could be compared to Ali, considered to be the greatest fighter in boxing history.

    "He's got the biggest pay-per-view in pay-per-view history. How many of the top 10 does he have? I don't even know. He's one of the biggest stars out there.

    "A lot of the times coming in his career he's been doubted for his talent and he proves everybody wrong every time."

    White was also asked how much McGregor was worth to UFC, with a figure of $2billion suggested by a reporter.

    "Two billion dollars? Sounds like a good number, I'll take that," White joked. "I don't know what he's worth to the company but it's big.

    "You couldn't go anywhere without seeing this fight and knowing that this fight was on. All the people came out and watched the fight.

    "This is one of those fights that people who normally don't buy [do] buy, right? So, the number is always massive.

    "Then Conor comes out and does what he did tonight. You can't put a number on that. It's massive and it's global. The whole world was watching tonight."

    McGregor's previous fight came in October 2018, when he was defeated by Khabib Nurmagomedov.

    In his own post-fight news conference, McGregor outlined his intention to go up against the Russian once more, and White is eager to make a rematch happen.

    "We're at a place right now where Conor was saying that, going into the Khabib fight, he had lots of personal stuff," said White.

    "Some stuff [was] self-inflicted. He had injuries. He had all these things going on. He has been obsessed with getting that rematch because he knows that he wasn't 100 per cent right.

    "We're looking at like Ali-Foreman, Ali-Frazier. This is a massive fight with global appeal. It's the fight you make, it's the fight that makes sense. It's for the 155-pound title.

    "It's huge for Khabib’s legacy, too. If he beat McGregor, then he beats Tony Ferguson, then he beats McGregor again, I mean, this is how this kid, when he retires, he's 30-something and, oh, he's beaten all of the best."

  • McGregor v Cerrone: Who's next for 'the Notorious' after stunning 40-second UFC 246 win? McGregor v Cerrone: Who's next for 'the Notorious' after stunning 40-second UFC 246 win?

    If you blinked there is every chance you may have missed Conor McGregor's clinical and devastating return at UFC 246.

    The Irishman only needed 40 seconds to defeat MMA legend Donald Cerrone in Las Vegas on Saturday in what was his first bout in the Octagon for 15 months.

    Many had predicted a McGregor victory, just maybe not the swift nature of it, and more difficult challenges lie in wait for the 31-year-old.

    So just who is next for McGregor? We take a look at six possibilities.

     

    JORGE MASVIDAL

    A man, like McGregor, whose verbal skills match his technical ability. After a stellar 2019, which brought victories over Darren Till, Ben Askren and Nate Diaz, Jorge Masvidal has frequently tried to catch McGregor's attention, even going as far as to wear the same Versace robe the Irishman donned for his 2017 fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr when in attendance for the Cerrone bout. While 'the Notorious' laughed off that attempt to get under his skin, he once again conceded the prospect of facing Masvidal for the UFC's BMF belt is an interesting one.

    NATE DIAZ

    It seems unlikely a trilogy fight between McGregor and Nate Diaz will take place in the immediate future but who knows in the MMA game? Their first two encounters in 2016, which were split at one apiece, were among the most lucrative in UFC history. After McGregor's victory over Cerrone, Diaz took to Twitter to call out the event as "fake", prompting a reply from his long-time foe at a post-victory news conference in which he said: "Let's go brother, number three. It's always here, so we are right here Nathan."

    KAMARU USMAN

    McGregor made history in 2016 by becoming the first fighter in UFC history to hold belts in two divisions at the same time. After successfully stepping up to 170lbs to defeat Cerrone, the chance to hold a third strap at welterweight is sure to be of interest. The man currently in possession of the prize is Kamaru Usman. McGregor called out the Nigerian-American after his victory over Colby Covington last month and Usman has been unsurprisingly open to the idea. An intriguing sub-plot prior to the Cerrone fight was a series of unsavoury Tweets posted from Usman's account aimed at McGregor, though he later insisted he was hacked. 

    KHABIB NURMAGOMEDOV 

    There was bad blood in and out of the Octagon when McGregor and unbeaten lightweight king Khabib Nurmagomedov first waged war in October 2018. On that occasion, Khabib submitted McGregor before an all-out melee marred the win. McGregor has clamoured for another opportunity, while UFC president Dana White said of the possibility: "It's the fight you make, it's the fight that makes sense." Certainly, there would be plenty of eager eyes on this one.

    MANNY PACQUIAO

    In the immediate future, it looks as though McGregor still has goals in UFC he wants to accomplish. But prior to beating Cerrone, he made no secret of a desire to win a boxing world title and revealed talks were ongoing to face Filipino great Manny Pacquiao. Even at the ripe old age of 41, Pacquiao remains as active as ever and defeated Keith Thurman via a split decision to win the WBA Super welterweight champion last July. 

    FLOYD MAYWEATHER JR

    It was one of the most lucrative fights in history when these two first danced together in a Las Vegas super fight in August 2017. McGregor vowed to avenge his defeat to 'Money' if a rematch were to happen, and Mayweather teased the possibility on Instagram when he mocked up a poster that read "Mayweather McGregor 2, 2020". Addressing that after the fight, McGregor said "that rematch will happen at some stage". Perhaps this one really is a matter of when, not if. 

  • I achieved it all – McGregor suggests he lost motivation for UFC I achieved it all – McGregor suggests he lost motivation for UFC

    Conor McGregor revealed he lost his motivation for UFC after achieving a rapid rise to prominence in mixed martial arts, but he says he has now rediscovered his love for the octagon.

    McGregor returned after a 15-month absence on Saturday, claiming a rapid first-round victory over Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone in Las Vegas, which took just 40 seconds.

    The 31-year-old had not fought since losing to Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2018, while the Irishman had also ventured into boxing when he faced Floyd Mayweather Jr in 2017.

    His time away from mixed martial arts started with a six-month ban imposed after a post-fight brawl outside the cage following his showdown with Khabib.

    McGregor was then arrested and charged with strong-armed robbery and criminal mischief in March 2019 after it was alleged he took a man's phone and smashed it on the ground in Miami – the charges were later dropped. In November last year, he was fined €1,000 after pleading guilty to an assault of a man at a pub in Dublin.

    However, McGregor insists he is now fully focused on his mixed martial arts career, after acknowledging that he let the people who supported him down.

    "I achieved it all. I broke the game before I was 30 years of age, simple as," McGregor told a news conference. "One belt became not enough.

    "My coach says it’s the worst nightmare for a coach if his student achieves it all – the money, the fame, the belts, all of this. What then to motivate me?

    "I probably had to go through that and then come back to it for the love of it, which is why I got into it in the first place. Everything's a learning curve, you learn what's right and wrong.

    "I wasn't committed and it was a disrespect of the people that believed in me. People were taking the time away from their families to come and help me and I wasn't committed with it. I would train and then I'd go missing for three days and then I'd come back and it was sporadic and on my call."

    McGregor is adamant the only trick to success is hard work and discipline.

    "It's all about commitment and then just do what you need to do. All I did was put in the work," he added.

    "We know what the work is we need to do but sometimes you just don't do it. It's like little defeats and then those add up and your interest wanes, then you can get injured and all those things.

    "It's about commitment, that's it. You put in the work and you reap the rewards, there's no secret sauce to this. Recognise what you need to do, f****** do it, and you will succeed."

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