Conor McGregor – The Welterweight Effect

Josh Hedges – Zuffa LLC

So it’s signed, sealed, and delivered. Former two-weight world champion, ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor will make his first Octagon walk in just over fifteen months, as he headlines UFC 246 on January 18th. against a familiar face, Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone. After weeks of speculation regarding a possible comeback, fuelled entirely by McGregor himself, the likely pairing between himself and Cerrone is set, but there’s a certain detail worth investigating.

It’s a headlining return for ‘The Notorious’ one, as widely expected, but it’s also a return to welterweight, a division he has only featured in twice during his illustrious professional career. We have to go back to August 2016, to find McGregor making the 170-pound limit, during his rematch success against foe, Nate Diaz. Sure, the original pairing between the two strikers earlier that year was also contested at welterweight, but the consensus belief remained that a cocktail of short-notice and negotiating mishaps regarding a catchweight bout resulted in the 170-pound affair.

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The decision to make the contest a welterweight matchup is quite bizarre. Cerrone only returned to 155-pounds at the beginning of this year, and showed initial success with a finish of Alexander Hernandez and a one-sided decision win over Al Iaquinta. He’s dropped losses to Tony Ferguson via doctor’s stoppage and then a first round knockout to Justin Gaethje even more recently, but the decision to jump back to welterweight is telling.

The argument which has been tossed around is the fact that the contest is merely just seven weeks away is somewhat invalid in this case. The pairing of the two has been rumoured for months at this point, so time to cut weight, or seemingly lack thereof can easily be rebuttled. McGregor outlined his three fight plan for the upcoming year, including this now booked January 18th. return, but also a quest for the BMF championship afterwards; a championship which just so happens to be held by the sky rocketing welterweight, Jorge ‘Gamebred’ Masvidal, a man deemed, “too big” for McGregor in terms of stature.

McGregor competed six times in the space of just two years during his run to the featherweight crown and subsequent meetings with Nate Diaz and Eddie Alvarez, a truly gut-busting feat and schedule. UFC 246 will mark just his second Octagon appearance since his triumph over Alvarez, and the aforementioned three fight plan gives him a certain head-start on welterweight inroads, starting with the 170-pound affair against Cerrone. It’s a comfortable weight for the Dubliner, and if he picks up a victory over ‘Cowboy’, he’s immediately instated into Masvidal territory. It’s a cunning move; get the body primed for a possible extended period at that weight.

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