Conor McGregor in his 'best shape ever' for UFC 246 return against Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone

By Sports Desk January 13, 2020

UFC insiders believe Conor McGregor is in the best shape of his career before his battle against Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone in Las Vegas.

McGregor will fight for the first time since his controversial defeat to Khabib Nurmagomedov in October 2018 when he takes on Cowboy on Saturday.

The Irishman has previously trained for mega-bouts against Khabib, Nate Diaz and Eddie Alvarez as well as a lucrative boxing duel with Floyd Mayweather Jr.

But UFC president Dana White has received word that McGregor has never been in a condition as good as he is for his contest with Cowboy.

Victory could propel McGregor to fights against Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal or potentially a rematch with Khabib. 

White has suggsted he could not be better prepared with regard to his fitness, telling TMZ: "I'm hearing he's in phenomenal shape right now.

"The UFC doctor is actually saying he thinks Conor is in the best shape he's ever seen him in. His head seems to be in the right place."

McGregor has been rated as comfortable favourite for the fight against Cowboy, who has lost six of his 10 contests since the start of 2017.

But White warned against anyone expecting Cowboy, who at 36 is five years older than McGregor, to be an easy opponent for the Dubliner, particularly given his recent hiatus from the Octagon. 

"I think that the level of disrespect shown to Cowboy Cerrone by the media, a lot of the fans, and definitely the sports books in Las Vegas, is insanity," continued White.

"And ring rust is real – I believe in it. We'll see how that goes. It's a very interesting fight with two of the baddest in the business to ever do it and this is a fun one."

McGregor was not heeding White's warning at the weekend, insisting he could beat his opponent at any weight, even if he "had the flu".

He said he agreed to fight Cerrone at 170lb because the veteran "does not look well" at 155lb, which is the weight he would need to return to if he ever fights Khabib again.

Welterweight champion Usman and Masvidal, meanwhile, are in the 170lb division.

White added: "Cerrone has fought at 170 many times and is comfortable at 170. Conor McGregor will probably weigh in at 169 or 168 or somewhere around there. It's even hard for Conor to hit 170. 

"Obviously, Conor's been out for a while. Conor has fought two times at 170. He's got a win and a loss at 170. Cowboy Cerrone has gone on these two-fight skids before and come back - he is almost one of those guys that needs something big to fight for.

"It's more than just the money, all the things that go along with it. This is the type of fight that Cowboy Cerrone is an absolute spoiler in. This is his deal. These are the type of fights he likes to be in."

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    The judges scored the fight 48-47, 48-47, 49-46 in favour of Jones, but Reyes was furious and said he had been "all over" the champion over the first three rounds.

    UFC president Dana White revealed his children thought Reyes had done enough to get the decision and were plaguing him for answers over why Jones retained his light-heavyweight title.

    With his success, Jones becomes the UFC fighter with the most wins in title fights, his tally of 14 one better than Georges St-Pierre's record.

    And the 32-year-old American is now undefeated in his last 18 UFC fights, having last lost to Matt Hamill in 2009, when he was disqualified.

    However, the crowd inside the Toyota Center saw a tight contest and Jones admitted he had been through a war in the octagon.

    "He landed some hard hits. The fans like it when they see me get hit - it doesn't happen very often," Jones said.

    "But at the same time, I landed some takedowns. I got his back on more than one occasion. ... A hard-earned victory but a victory."

    He added, according to ESPN: "That's the way to make American history right there: hard-fought.

    "It wasn't the most impressive victory, but nothing, absolutely nothing that has never been done before is easy. It is never easy. I left it all out there, showed the heart of a champion in the fifth round, and it's so sweet."

    Jones, who certainly came on strong in the fourth and fifth rounds, was not in the mood for modesty after confirmation his reign as champion would continue.

    "Obviously, my body is hurting, but this victory is so sweet. This fight helps to put me as one of the greatest American athletes of all time," he said.

    Reyes, a 30-year-old from California who suffered his first loss, took a swipe at the 49-46 verdict against him, insisting that was a false reflection of the match-up.

    He said: "I do feel disrespected. I know I won that fight ... I made Jon Jones look like just a man. I brought the fight to him.

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    White, watching on, hailed Jones as "the GOAT [greatest of all time], and said he admired how he was finding a way against "these young killers".

    But White spared a thought for Reyes, too.

    "My kids are terrorising me that the fix is in," he said. "[They are asking:] 'How does this happen, Dad? Reyes won the fight!'

    "None of us are judges. The judges call the fight, and that's it."

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