Conor McGregor will fight in the UFC for the first time in over a year in January, when he takes on Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in the main event of UFC 246.

Conor McGregor Donald Cerrone
Conor McGregor will return to the UFC Octagon on Jan. 18 to take on Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in a welterweight bout. (Image: Brandon Magnus/Zuffa/Getty)

The welterweight fight is scheduled for Jan. 18 in Las Vegas, according to UFC president Dana White.

McGregor Takes First Fight Since Nurmagomedov Loss

White told ESPN on Thursday that McGregor had already signed the paperwork to compete in the fight, while Cerrone had also agreed to the bout.

McGregor (21-4) will be fighting up a weight class from his typical lightweight stomping grounds. This will be the third time he has moved up to 170 pounds; the last two times, the Irishman did so to take on Nate Diaz, with whom he split two fights by in 2016.

While McGregor has been one of the most popular and most successful fighters in UFC history, winning titles as both a featherweight and a lightweight, he has fought just once in the past three years. That came when he lost to Khabib Nurmagomedov by submission, a defeat that kept Nurmagomedov undefeated, and earned the Russian fighter the UFC lightweight title.

Record-Setting Cerrone is Fan Favorite

Cerrone (36-13) also enjoyed much of his career at lightweight, though he spent nine fights at welterweight before moving back down in weight for his last four fights, all of which have taken place in 2019. Since moving down to 155 pounds, Cerrone is 2-2, scoring wins against Alexander Hernandez and Al Iaquinta before being stopped by Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje.

Wins and losses can’t fully explain Cerrone’s appeal to UFC fans, however. He has the most wins in company history (23, one ahead of Demian Maia), and the most finishes (16, one ahead of Charles Oliveira). Long known as an action fighter willing to take bouts with little turnaround time, the 36-year-old Cerrone is, quite simply, a crowd pleaser, and one who has been in line for a major payday for some time.

At FanDuel Sportsbook, McGregor opened as a -245 favorite over Cerrone (+196). That reflects McGregor’s much greater success when taking on elite fighters, though Cerrone has proven capable of beating top-ranked contenders before. He’s scored wins against names like Alex Oliveira, Jeremy Stephens, and Eddie Alvarez over the course of career. The American has never found success against someone at McGregor’s level, but he’s capable of finishing anyone.

That may be why McGregor chose Cerrone – a big name, but a fighter that may be a step down from him in terms of ability – for his comeback fight. For the Irishman, this bout represents a way to immediately re-establish himself as a contender without much risk. But not everyone believes the fight will be so straightforward.

“Understand one thing. The fight is scheduled for five rounds,” Chael Sonnen said on his Bad Guy Inc. YouTube show. “If Conor ever had a flaw in his career, and he hasn’t had very many, he’s been open to admit it: he gets tired…I do feel in many ways the miscalculation here is to walk back into a five-round fight.”

Whether it ends early or late, bookmakers don’t think that the bout will be going to the judge’s scorecards. FanDuel is offering +300 odds on the fight going the distance, or -460 on the night ending early.

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