Donald Cerrone once again found himself in the headlines this week after claiming that he will be facing Conor McGregor for the UFC interim-lightweight title.
It all started with a tweet. A direct admission of respect for one of the game’s most revered veterans in the wake of an incredibly gritty showing at UFC Brooklyn last month.
For a fight like that Donald, I’ll fight you.
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) January 20, 2019
Cerrone’s status as a legend has been set in stone for some time now and for him to fight in a blockbuster showdown of this magnitude would be a fitting reward for a career as entertaining as his.
Win, lose, or draw, a matchup with Conor McGregor is a life-changing event in itself.
Apart from the odd mention of this fight from the usual parties – including UFC president Dana White, things had been relatively quiet on this front until Cerrone made the following post to his official Instagram page.
‘Looks like we get to fight for the 155lb interim-title’.
Was it a gentle nudge to the UFC in order to get this show on the road, a subtle poke at the Irishman or, as unlikely as it night seem, an early sign that we’re about to see this fight become a reality?
Well, like most fights – blockbuster billings included – we often don’t get too much in the way of an indication as to when things will be made official. Of course, there are always rumours afloat to some degree but things generally spark out of nowhere where fight-announcements of this magnitude are concerned.
Taking a look at the days that led up to the announcement of UFC 229’s headlining showdown between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor offers us an interesting insight.
McGregor began to hint at an imminent return prior to August 3 with a series of tweets that in hindsight, were a lot more blatant than we perhaps thought at the time.
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) August 3, 2018
Honey I’m home pic.twitter.com/Mx1fJLKLmX
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) August 2, 2018
And, of course, the memorable teaser he dropped just minutes before Dana White announced the fight at the UFC 25th anniversary press conference.
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) August 3, 2018
Khabib, in a move that time may show to be similar to Cowboy’s most recent post, seemed to the spill the beans on the UFC’s plan – again, just prior to the official announcement.
— khabib nurmagomedov (@TeamKhabib) August 3, 2018
Everything we saw then was calculated, especially in times like those and with a man as methodical as McGregor can be.
Recent posts show that the man has intensified his training – if we’re to take his social media activity as truth as well as the fact that he took time out during his trip to this year’s SuperBowl to put in some hard hours with American Top Team’s Roan Carneiro.
According to the Brazilian (who spoke to TheBodyLockMMA), Conor came to him looking for intense work.
“He [McGregor] was like ‘hey man, you want to roll?’ I said ‘of course man, why not?’ Then we do one roll, five minutes and then the second roll, another five. And then the third, I have to be honest, it was my first training [session] after my [last] fight so I gassed a little bit. He’s like, ‘come on man, let’s go, one more, one more.’”
“Then he wanted championship rounds, so then we rolled for five, five-minute rounds. He liked a lot. We exchanged experience. I showed him some tricks. [I] just left my door open for him, whenever he wants to come, he is going to be welcomed. He changed what I thought about him — super nice guy, so respectful, I only have good things to tell about him.”
Of course, this is all speculation, make no mistake. But as history has shown, we’re usually caught off-guard by the announcement of a Conor McGregor bout to some degree.
Even when his boxing super-fight with Floyd Mayweather was revealed to be set for August 26, 2017, the actual confirmation came hours after the first reports indicating that it was a done-deal.
There can be nothing else. As nothing else is worthwhile. pic.twitter.com/dLMIFmGE49
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) February 9, 2019
Dana White, who, of course, will deny that this fight is official until he himself decides to spill the beans, spoke to ESPN‘s Brett Okamoto about the need for an interim-title at 155lbs due to the ongoing suspension of the division’s champion Nurmagomedov.
“Yeah, it probably would [to make an interim lightweight title]. It probably would. Yeah. We’ll see how it plays out. I haven’t heard Khabib say any of that. He hasn’t said to me.
“So when I hear these things that come back from reporters, or fans, or whatever, ‘Oh, I heard this and that,’ … I haven’t heard that.”
Dana White on Khabib Nurmagomedov’s apparent plan to sit out until November. pic.twitter.com/MKeA71iHOM
— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) February 8, 2019
And while it would appear that top-contenders Dustin Poirier and Tony Ferguson would be the obvious pick to contest the interim-belt, are we really going to sit here and act like the UFC won’t take the option that brings in the most money?
If there’s one thing we’ve learned in recent years it’s that the UFC love sticking a title on the line – even if doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.
Again, we’re dipping into speculation here but to be honest, the signs are there that something is brewing.
Cerrone’s rather blatant Instagram post, Dana’s admission that there should be an interim-belt at lightweight, and of course, virtually everything we’re seeing from Conor at present.
We could be wrong, but it looks increasingly likely that something big is in the works.
Watch this space.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena