Give and Go

Ultimate Fighting Championship superstar Conor McGregor made it a triumphant return to the Octagon on Sunday (Manila time) at “UFC 246,” defeating Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in the headlining welterweight fight in just 40 seconds (!).

Coming off a controversy-filled loss in his last fight to Khabib Nurmagomedov in October 2018, McGregor showed solid form against Cerrone, pounding the latter with shoulder strikes and punctuating it with a head-kick that all but signaled the end for the fighter with the most victories in the UFC.

But as much as impressive was McGregor’s UFC return after a 15-month layoff, what stood out for this space during Sunday’s event, and in the lead-up, actually, was how “The Notorious” was calmer and collected in how he went about things.

There was not so much of the devil-may-care attitude which bordered to being obnoxious that marked his previous fights — from pre-fight, during the fight and post-fight.

He was rather more “respectful” of his opponent and his team, the UFC and the fans, something that came few and far between in the past, if at all.

McGregor was cordial with Cerrone, even apologizing for being late in the weigh-in.

He also has good words to say to his conquered opponent and had a poignant moment after with Cerrone’s grandmother.

McGregor would eventually show his trademark bravado and antics in calling out the “big wigs” in the division after the fight, but it was not enough to overshadow the “tamer” demeanor he had for the most part of UFC 246.

These being said, it begs the question, “Is McGregor now a changed man?”

Well, it remains to be seen if this is a complete sea change for The Notorious or just an act.

But as an observer of the sport and the UFC as an organization, I hope this version of McGregor stays.

Definitely he is one of the more engaging fighters in all of mixed martial arts, combining skills and entertainment value.

Sometimes, however, the off-fight antics of his overshadowed those that happened in the Octagon, which was really unfortunate.

Just think of that last fight with Khabib — which in my opinion, while intriguing, was just stressful and “full of hate” right from the moment it was announced all the way to the after-fight fracas between the two camps.

In this latest fight, there was just balance from his end, entertaining and impressive at the same time which made the whole affair more eventful.

Here’s hoping McGregor stays this kind of course. For all his talent in the Octagon he already has a captive following but coupled with better sense of propriety and respect, he will be in better favor with more people.


Michael Angelo S. Murillo has been a columnist since 2003. He is a BusinessWorld senior reporter covering the Sports beat.