Conor McGregor isn’t known for killing his opponents with kindness but that appears to be his strategy ahead of his showdown with Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone at UFC 246.
Known as one of the most prolific trash talkers in the history of combat sports, the former two-division champion has made mental warfare as much a part of his strategy as the left hand he fires like a cruise missile at his opponents.
This time around, however, McGregor has abandoned his typical verbal onslaught in favor of paying Cerrone a string of compliments. Of course, that doesn’t mean he’s expecting a different result on fight night.
“He has my respect and although there will be blood spilled on Jan. 18, it will not be bad blood,” McGregor said at the UFC 246 pre-fight press conference. “And for the “Mystic Mac” prediction, it will be a KO.”
The history between McGregor and Cerrone wasn’t always so amicable.
A few years ago when the Irish superstar was first making major waves in the UFC, he was about to challenge Jose Aldo for the undisputed featherweight title and he engaged in a back and forth war of words with “Cowboy” at a press conference where both appeared.
The two fighters never really crossed paths much since then but it seems time heals all wounds because McGregor couldn’t help but have a laugh when that past encounter was brought up to him on Wednesday.
“The last time we spoke to each other, or we even saw each other, was at that press conference many years ago. So much has changed since then,” McGregor said. “I was the interim featherweight world champion at the time. Donald predicted I wouldn’t get through Aldo. I got through Aldo. He predicted I was too small for the 155-pound division. I conquered that division.
“We’ve had a good back and forth, myself and Donald, and as time has gone on he’s become a family man. Obviously, you’ve seen him compete so many times, it’s hard not to respect Donald, right now at this stage.”
Instead of trudging up the past, McGregor is staying focused on the present as he seeks to reclaim his throne as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport. Nearly four years have passed since he was the first fighter in UFC history to hold two divisional titles simultaneously.
Right now, Cerrone is the first obstacle on his planned road to redemption but the ex-champ appears more concerned about making a highlight reel out of his performance on Saturday night than a viral video from his antics leading up to the fight.
“It’s hard not to respect Donald. There will be no bad blood here. But there will be blood spilled, make no mistake about that. That’s the beautiful business we’re in. We’re focusing on the skills here. It’s going to be exciting bout for the fans. It’s going to be a lot of attacks, a lot of drama in there, no doubt, we’re very, very eager to get going,” McGregor said.
“I’m in a good spot. I’m ready to fight. I am setting out for big goals. I am going to kickstart UFC’s 2020 year big and I’m going to continue it. It’s going to be a mega-year here at the UFC and at McGregor Sports and Entertainment, you know that. I’m very happy. I have a lot of exciting things in the pipeline. It’s damn good to be back.”