McGregor takes out Cerrone in 40-second TKO

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LAS VEGAS — Everyone was looking for Conor McGregor‘s left hand. Instead, it was his left leg.

McGregor cracked Donald Cerrone to the chin with a left head kick in the opening seconds of their UFC 246 main event fight Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena. The end came soon after. In his comeback fight, McGregor was victorious via TKO in just 40 seconds.

It marked the second-fastest win of McGregor’s career, the quickest being his 13-second knockout of Jose Aldo to win the featherweight title in December 2015.

Afterward, McGregor knelt in the center of the Octagon and put his head in his palms. Then he grabbed the Irish flag from his team, paraded around the cage with it and climbed the cage to celebrate further.

The stakes were incredibly high for both men. For McGregor, it was a chance to reestablish himself in the sport following a loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov in October 2018 (his previous fight) and a 2019 rife with outside-the-cage issues. Last year, McGregor pleaded guilty to punching an older man at a Dublin bar, and the New York Times reported he is the subject of two alleged sexual assault investigations in his native Ireland.

For Cerrone, it was an opportunity to rid the biggest knock on him: that he cannot win the big one. As “Cowboy” noted earlier this week, it doesn’t get much bigger than a McGregor fight in Las Vegas.

McGregor is the most popular fighter in UFC history, the promotion’s biggest money mover and the former UFC lightweight and featherweight champion. Cerrone, meanwhile, is one of the most active and successful fighters of all time. He has the most wins (23) and the most finishes (16) in UFC history, among other records.

But Cerrone had never been in a pay-per-view main event until Saturday night and has no UFC titles to his name. There was no gold belt on the line Saturday, but this bout was bigger in some ways than one for a championship.

“I like this [welterweight] division,” McGregor said in his postfight interview in the Octagon. “I feel really good. But I came out of here unscathed. I’m in shape. We’ve got work to do to get back to where I was.”

John Kavanagh, McGregor’s coach, seemed to agree. While walking past press row, he called McGregor at UFC 246 the “best version ever.”

Talking about a potential next opponent, vintage McGregor came out — not the respectful McGregor we saw all week.

“Any one of these fools can get it,” McGregor said. “All of them. Every single one. It does not matter.”



Chael Sonnen and Michael Bisping break down Conor McGregor’s impressive performance vs. Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+

To start the bout, McGregor came forward with a huge, winging left hand. Cerrone ducked it, and the two men went into a clinch. From there, McGregor hit Cerrone with his shoulder and his elbow, which Cerrone said surprised him and busted him up early. McGregor then landed a knee, and upon the separation from the clinch, McGregor caught Cowboy with a kick to the chin.

Cerrone was wobbled, and McGregor pounced. Cerrone went down to his knees, and McGregor continued the onslaught until referee Herb Dean called off the bout and ruled it a TKO.

Afterward, Cerrone was transported to the hospital for precautionary reasons due to injuries to his head and face.

McGregor outlanded Cerrone 19-0 in significant strikes. He noted that he now has finishes in three UFC divisions — featherweight, lightweight and welterweight. McGregor said the UFC can strip his titles — which it has done twice before due to inactivity defending them — but cannot take away those records.

“Etch my name in history one more time,” said McGregor, who also has the third-most knockouts or TKOs among fighters at 170 pounds or lighter with eight.. “For the Irish people. For my mom back home.”

McGregor (22-4) had not won a fight since he stopped Eddie Alvarez in the first round on Nov. 12, 2016, to win the lightweight title at UFC 205. The past three-plus years have been tumultuous, though still lucrative for the Irishman, with big fights against Floyd Mayweather in boxing and his blood feud with Nurmagomedov in the UFC.

McGregor, 31, has promised to stay active this year, fighting as much as three times or more. But first he had to deal with a very game Cowboy.

Cerrone (36-14, 1 NC) has lost three straight fights, also getting finished by top lightweights Justin Gaethje and Tony Ferguson. The New Mexico resident was on a three-fight winning streak and closing in on a title shot prior to that. Cerrone, 36, is known for his exciting striking style and vowed to keep it standing against McGregor rather than take it to the ground, where he might have an advantage.

“I love the sport,” Cerrone said afterward. “I’m gonna keep fighting.”

UFC 246 drew 19,040 to T-Mobile Arena for a gate of $11,089,129.30, the fourth-highest gate in UFC history. McGregor was the headliner in three of the top five gates.

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