UFC 246 had no title fight for a main event, but when one half of it is the return of one of the most high-profile fighters to date in Conor McGregor, it is a good way to kick off a new year in the UFC in this new decade of mixed martial arts. The tide of MMA is changing and with the UFC constantly being the measuring stick in the past, UFC 246 is setting the tone for 2020.
1The more things change, the more they stay the same
Weeks before the UFC 246 marketing machine went into full throttle, fans were reminded that no matter how long Reebok has been in business with the UFC, they still produce products not even casual fans would recognize as a product for the highest-grossing mixed martial arts athlete. For McGregor’s return, his UFC 246 walkout shirt received less than favorable reviews. While it was for some new sneaker Reebok had released, it was poorly executed. His corner wore the shirt, he didn’t. Still think this Reebok deal is a home run?
2Too much or too little respect
No real trash talk leading up to the main event which is one of the things that added to McGregor’s fame. This fight leadup was different, the marketing was done well and both men were very respectful to one another leading up to the fight but given the outcome, was Cerrone giving McGregor too much respect or too little? It could also be a case of “anywhere, anytime” catching up with Cerrone but more on that later.
3News or Public Relations
McGregor had been in the news more for his legal issues than any relevant fight news prior to UFC 246. While news can be depressing and sports is the outlet for fans to get a temporary escape from the things going in the world, it was McGregor who set the tone for bringing eyeballs to everything he does outside of fighting. It is part of the reason for his success and probably his problems. Morgan Campbell of the Toronto Star tried asking about those things everyone knows about, but no one wanted to talk about. Campbell got booed for his efforts and praised by those wanting to know, but for cage fighting and coverage, is it news or public relations work that the media does? Karim Zidan over at Bloody Elbow wrote a piece about it that is something to consider moving forward in terms of McGregor and the UFC in 2020.
4Byrd is a word
Adelaide Byrd was on hand for some of the judging at UFC 246. This is something fans noticed early in the evening for the few fights that went to the judges that had them question some of the scoring. The name should be concerning to fight fans as she has had a history of judging fights in both boxing and MMA oddly. Her biggest controversy was when she judged the Canelo/GGG bout back in 2017 that even had the likes of Sports Illustrated look into her ability to judge.
5Happy Warrior Derails Barber Hype Train
Roxanne Modafferi has been in the fight game for a while and was a huge underdog against the undefeated Maycee Barber. Modafferi doesn’t talk trash, she dresses like anime characters for weigh-ins, and she ignored everyone that believed she was beaten before she got there to hand the young upstart Barber her first loss. The good thing is that Barber is young enough to learn from this but when an underdog wins it’s hard not to like.
6Dana White: “Khabib vs. Conor is the fight to make”
The plan seems to have been there before UFC 246 to somehow have McGregor face current lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov. With McGregor essentially steamrolling Cerrone the fight plan seems to be moving forward (even if it wasn’t at 155). Still, there are others more deserving and other fights to make but Nurmagomedov is adamant about McGregor needing to win a few fights before they see each other again.
The thing fans love most about Cerrone could likely be the thing that is responsible for his most recent losses. Fighting is a young person’s sport and Cerrone is not exactly old, but win or lose damage is taken in every fight and with little time between camps he is likely carrying wear-and-tear into the next match. In contrast, McGregor has been away for a year. A year to rest, reflect and heal to return to competition 100% seems to have worked out for McGregor. Maybe Cerrone could do well with some time off. We already know he won’t retire.
The UFC did pretty well in 2019 without Conor McGregor. Having him kick off the first event of 2020 with a win could make for a very interesting year for the UFC especially with fights to make in the future. During the broadcast, Joe Rogan said, “The King is back,” and he is supposed to fight at least two more times this year.
Which fights do you want to see following UFC 246?