UFC 246: Just Why Is McGregor vs. Cerrone at Welterweight Anyway?

Conor McGregor UFC
Conor McGregor Credit: Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com

Conor McGregor vs. Donald Cerrone at UFC 246 next month is going down at welterweight, and for good reason.

Since nothing is ever simple when it comes to Conor McGregor, even his return to the octagon has thrown MMA fans for a loop. No, not the tired argument that he’s fighting “Old Man Cerrone” as if it wasn’t just three fights or so ago that fans were raving about “Dad Cerrone.” Rather, the conundrum surrounding Mystic Mac’s return is the question of weight.

Just why is McGregor vs. Cerrone being contested at welterweight anyway?

This week, in the nation’s capital of Washington, DC to promote UFC on ESPN 7, head honcho Dana White suggested that McGregor didn’t want to cut weight. Plain and simple, right? Speaking to radio station 106.7 The Fan, (h/t MMA Junkie), White said simply that the 170 was happening “mainly because [McGregor] doesn’t want to have to cut the weight to 155. Him and Cerrone have both fought at 170.”

But wait, there’s more! In addition, the UFC president also said McGregor is hopeful that he can snag a rematch with Khabib Nurmagomedov. Ergo, don’t cut weight against Cerrone, but only against Khabib.

“He’s hoping that he beats Cerrone and can turn right around and fight Khabib as quick as possible,” White said on the air. “So he didn’t want to make the cut twice.”

Of course, there are multiple flaws in this maniacal plan. For starters, Nurmagomedov must get past Tony Ferguson in April, if the pair manage to make it to the octagon intact. Then, there’s the fact that Khabib tends to fight infrequently at best, intentionally or otherwise. A fight in April means it’s unlikely Nurmagomedov, a devout Muslim, will be back in action before the end of the summer. There’s Ramadan to consider, and while that only runs until the end of May, it will certainly impact the start of any fight camp. With a month of prayer and fasting, the best case scenario would see a camp start somewhere around June, making August or September the earliest we can expect to see ‘The Eagle’ again.

Oh, and the reigning lightweight champion has frequently stated he’s not interested in the rematch. Though maybe, just maybe, McGregor could sneak in as a short-notice replacement if Ferguson fell out of the fight. However that would be downright criminal if Justin Gaethje was willing and able.

So we’re back to… Conor McGregor doesn’t want to cut weight. Which, before the upcoming Christmas season, makes a certain amount of sense. The holidays are the worst time to be restricting intake, after all.

But there’s another twist here. In the very same chat with 106.7 on Thursday, White also brought up McGregor’s desire to face Jorge Masvidal.

“Conor has told me he definitely wants a fight with Masvidal,” White told the station. “So we’ll see what happens.”

We’ll see indeed. If McGregor pulls off the win against Cerrone, he’s 2-1 at 170lbs. While White has balked at the idea of McGregor fighting Masvidal in the past, is it a worse match-up than Khabib? With Masvidal’s heightened profile thanks to his BMF title win over Nate Diaz, it’s no doubt a fight that would sell.

There’s little question Masvidal would take the fight, as he’s not exactly one to back away from a challenge. And should Cerrone win the fight, suddenly, he’s back in the driver’s seat after two tough losses at 155lbs. While McGregor can drop back down to lightweight for whatever his next step might be.

So why is McGregor vs. Cerrone happening at welterweight? Because it offers the highest number of profitable options for the UFC, regardless of outcome.