After a tumultuous 2019, Conor McGregor will return to a UFC cage in January. ESPN announced this afternoon that McGregor will headline UFC 246 in a welterweight bout against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone. The event will take place on Jan. 18 from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
McGregor had been rumored for the January date for several weeks now, with Cerrone or Justin Gaethje as a potential opponent.
McGregor has not fought since an Oct. 2018 loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229 – a bout that famously ended with a wild brawl that spilled into the stands and saw McGregor, Nurmagomedov and others suspended by the Nevada Commission. With the suspension out of the way, McGregor is clear to return, but that doesn’t mean he’s kept out of trouble this year.
McGregor “retired” back in March with a tweet that said he was leaving “the sport formally known as ‘Mixed Martial Arts’.” Few took the retirement seriously and McGregor never removed himself from the USADA testing pool.
The fake retirement came on the same day a New York Times article was published with news that McGregor was under investigation for a sexual assault in Ireland the previous December. A second New York Times story came out in October claiming that McGregor was under investigation for a separate sexual assault incident in Dublin that month. McGregor has not been charged with any crimes.
This is in addition to an incident early in the year when McGregor was caught on tape taking a cell phone from a fan outside of a Miami hotel and smashing it with his foot. McGregor and the fan eventually settled the matter out of court. He was also caught on video punching a man in a Dublin pub while promoting his whiskey brand.
UFC 246 will take place on Jan. 18 on ESPN+ pay-per-view.
Hiscoe’s Analysis: This is a brave move of UFC to put McGregor out there with these sexual assault allegations still unresolved. They are either very confident that nothing is going to come of this, or they are desperate for a big number after a relatively quiet 2019 on PPV. By putting McGregor in a big fight in Las Vegas, UFC is running the risk of mainstream media latching on to the sexual assault story and questioning UFC’s decision to use him. This is not a move I would have made at this point and isn’t one I am particularly comfortable with, but it’s going to be a big fight for one reason or another.