In the post-fight media scrum following his brilliant second-round submission win over Mike Perry at last weekend’s UFC Fight Night 139 event, Donald Cerrone hinted to reporters that the UFC has already come to him with his next fight. The UFC’s new record holder for most wins and most finishes inside the Octagon was coy when asked for a name, and immediately speculation began as to who he was referring to. All we knew is that it was likely going to be someone in the lightweight division, because Cerrone made it clear after beating Perry that he is dropping down to 155 pounds for this next matchup.
Was Cerrone talking about Justin Gaethje? Maybe he was referring to Dustin Poirier. Maybe he meant Tony Ferguson. Or a rematch against Nate Diaz? He didn’t give much of a hint as to who he was referring to, and all the media and fans could do was speculate.
In recent days, however, it’s become clear who Cerrone is angling to fight next. It’s none other than former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion Conor McGregor, who is still currently suspended for his involvement in the UFC 229 post-fight brawl against Khabib Nurmagomedov. In posts on social media, it’s become very evident that Cerrone is hoping to fight McGregor next, and for good reason.
One, this is a big-money fight. Anyone who gets to fight McGregor basically gets a golden ticket because the fight is guaranteed to be a box office blockbuster. With Cerrone and his wife recently having had their first child, a son, Cerrone has admitted to having a new motivation to keep fighting in this sport and to keep winning. He wants to make as much money as he can while he’s still competing, and who can blame him? Calling out McGregor is the smartest move Cerrone can make right now because if he gets this fight, he’ll set up not only his own future but also his son’s future as well. Even if Cerrone and McGregor aren’t going to be fighting for a belt, this is still an amazing fight. Though we have to mention there’s a possibility they could fight for the vacant 165lbs title belt, if UFC president Dana White stops being so stubborn and makes that division.
The other reason Cerrone wants McGregor is because it’s a winnable fight for him. A tough fight, no doubt, but also a winnable one. We know that McGregor’s weakness is on the ground, and Cerrone is one of the most underrated submission artists in the UFC. As we saw against Perry, he can tap out anyone if he can get the fight to the ground. Too often Cerrone is stubborn and tries to stand and bang with his opponents, but now that he’s 35 perhaps he will fight smart and fight to his strengths. Don’t get me wrong, Cerrone’s standup is tremendous as well, but he doesn’t have the best chin or the most durable body. McGregor can definitely knock Cerrone out if this fight stays standing, but if it goes to the ground, Cerrone is going to have a huge advantage. He knows that, and that’s why he’s calling McGregor out, because it’s a big-money fight that suits him well stylistically.
So far, we haven’t heard anything from McGregor’s side, or anything from the UFC’s side either. Perhaps the promotion is still hoping to book the rematch with Nurmagomedov, or hoping Georges St-Pierre comes back and fights McGregor. But to me, this fight with Cerrone makes a lot of sense. Both guys are two of the most popular fighters to ever compete in the Octagon and both guys are known for putting on a show for the fans. If the UFC was smart, they would book this fight as soon as they can. Sometimes, the matchmakers don’t need to overthink things. Both McGregor and Cerrone need opponents for a fight in early 2019, and it makes sense to pair them up against each other. This bout has “Fight of the Night” written all over it, so hopefully the UFC gives the fans what they want and books this matchup. You simply can’t go wrong putting Cerrone and McGregor in the cage with one another. It’s a fight that has to happen.