The 2020 season is off and running for Conor McGregor

Surprise, surprise mother f… Well, you know the rest.

Conor McGregor returned to action this past Saturday in a highly anticipated bout against veteran Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone. McGregor made his walk to the octagon as the heavy favorite, although it seemed like the general public had just assumed it was McGregor’s fight to lose. I, too, thought McGregor would be the betting favourite, but alongside some of MMA’s hardcore fanbase, I knew Cerrone possessed a lot of tools to put a halt to McGregor’s 2020 plans.

Let me just explain to you in clear detail why a bit more respect should have been shown to Cowboy. Cerrone accepted the bout with McGregor as the record holder for the most amount of fights in UFC history, which shows what a savvy fight veteran he is. He carries the record for the most amount of wins inside the Octagon, the total number — a whopping 23 victories. McGregor has 26 fights throughout his entire career. Cowboy is the leader for most knockdowns in UFC history, the most post-fight bonuses, and the most knockouts via head kick. So those records alone say to me that in no way should Cowboy have been overlooked.

So, that’s just a brief opinion of mine as to why I think Cowboy was not to be overlooked going into that one. Well, let’s just say none of that mattered in the end because what myself, amongst every other fight fan witnessed on Saturday, was the return of a very hungry, aggressive Conor McGregor. When it was time to meet inside the Octagon, it was McGregor who looked to beat his fastest time for a UFC finish, throwing a straight left hand right out the gate. Cerrone ducked but never opted to take an onrushing off-balance McGregor down. Instead, a grappling exchange occurred where McGregor seemed to visibly do major damage, shutting the left eye and bloodying the nose of Cowboy with some very powerful yet unique shoulder strikes. The Notorious sought the finish after smelling blood and closed in on a busted up Cerrone, and ironically, set up the beginning of the end by landing a powerful left head kick of his own. From that point on, McGregor rushed his ground and pound but also landed with some serious intent. Herb Dean had seen enough at the 40-second mark and called it a night.

In what was one of McGregor’s top 5 UFC performances, it was also a make or break moment, whether McGregor would like to admit it or not. Had he been unsuccessful in the beginning to his new fight season, I don’t think many people would be sitting down today speculating over the Irishman’s next opponent.

Now, speaking of his next opponent, two big names were cage side to witness McGregor’s display of beautiful violence. One of those in Jorge Masvidal likes to display that also. Fans around the world have already seemed to apply pressure on the matchmakers at the UFC to make this bout a reality, as “Gamebred” is coming off the biggest year of his career, after duking it out with middleweight champion Israel Adesanya for the 2019 Fighter of the Year.

The other, the kingpin of the welterweight division, Kamaru Usman, who has also stated he would not be against taking a fight with McGregor. It has also been a recent goal of McGregor’s to seek a third UFC title, again becoming the first in history to do so. It seems to me that’s what McGregor’s newfound focus is. History. The rematch with Khabib Nurmagomedov is something he sees taking place by years end but it doesn’t sound like a priority for the Crumlin native.

UFC president Dana White is hoping to pair up Jorge Masvidal and champ Kamaru Usman next, but the fans control the sport, and if the fans want something bad enough, the UFC will listen. It could easily be the biggest fight of 2020, and should McGregor be successful, his rematch with Khabib Nurmagomedov would be the most highly anticipated bout in the company’s history, providing the lightweight champion gets past the number one ranked lightweight in the world, Tony Ferguson.

The weekend capped off a positive start to the new year for Conor McGregor, as his legal issues have painted the Irishman in a negative light in his home country of Ireland over the last 15 months. It was crucial he got back to a winning start, and providing all else works out in McGregor’s favour during his legal battles, I think in the future there could be another shift amongst the Irish fanbase again as he could have the ability to win back those who chose not to follow him on his come back fight. McGregor had addressed how he let down his fans but seeking to turn over a new leaf and dispatching Cowboy in 40 seconds while handling the whole process with class was a giant step in the right direction. Nothing is certain as to where McGregor goes from here, but this was a solid win for “The Notorious” by all accounts on Saturday

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