Conor McGregor and Donald Cerrone traded compliments instead of insults and shared mutual esteem instead of disdain during Wednesday's UFC 246. Considering the presser involved McGregor, it was actually shocking how subdued it was from start to finish. But maybe that's just what the UFC needs right now.
McGregor went out of his way to praise Cerrone, lauding him for his activity, his ability to fight at different weights, and his accomplishments in the UFC. For his part, Cerrone lauded McGregor for his accomplishments and claimed he was excited to share the octagon with the Irishman.
The two even shook hands after their stare-down.
The evening seemed to be all about good vibes for both men and both expressed excitement at the prospect of fighting the other Saturday night at UFC 246 in Las Vegas. Given the level of bad blood exhibited before a number of McGregor's previous fights, perhaps the mutual admiration society meeting was the calm the UFC needed before what should be an entertaining fight.
There was no attack on a bus, no full cans of Monster chucked at members of the other's entourage and likely no post-fight brawl that spills into the crowd. And thank goodness. Sure there were some classic McGregor moments. He claimed he could read Cerrone like a children's book:
And Cerrone ate a little crow for laughing when McGregor said he was going to win titles at 145 and 155 pounds:
McGregor also went out of his way to express his excitement about the upcoming year in the UFC, as he's claimed he wants to fight three times in 2020 after more than a year away from mixed martial arts.
Maybe we've finally gotten a different Conor McGregor. Has he matured past the brash, mouthy, "do whatever I want" fighter of years past? After legal troubles and a humbling loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229, maybe that's what we've got.
McGregor is 31 and financially secure. He doesn't need to be back in the UFC. But by all accounts, he's been incredibly focused for this fight. He even gave up drinking while training for the fight -- something he didn't do for his bout with Nurmagomedov. He seems ready.
Cerrone is, well, he's Donald Cerrone. "Cowboy" is always up for a challenge and repeatedly stated how excited he was for the fight. He had his first UFC bout at UFC 126 back on February 5, 2011, and has been an insanely active fighter over his career. He's 36-13 (one no-contest), and holds UFC records for the most wins (23), most finishes (16) and most post-fight bonuses (18). The 36-year-old will be in the UFC Hall of Fame when he's done fighting.
McGregor is 21-4, with all of his losses coming via submission. He hasn't won a fight since beating Eddie Alvarez for the UFC lightweight title on November 12, 2016, at UFC 205. That was the high-point of his career as "The Notorious" became the first fighter in UFC history to simultaneously hold titles at two weight classes. Since then he lost a boxing match to Floyd Mayweather, then lost a lightweight championship fight against Nurmagomedov.
Given McGregor's long layoff and Cerrone's two-fight losing streak, it's hard to know what to expect during Saturday's fight. It should be fun since both fighters know how to put on a show. But with a new, subdued and focused Conor McGregor, no one should feel confident in their predictions.