Does Conor McGregor vs. Cowboy Cerrone Deserve to Be a Main Event?

Scott Harris@ScottHarrisMMAMMA Lead WriterMarch 15, 2019

FILE - In this Oct. 5, 2018, file photo, Conor McGregor poses during a ceremonial weigh-in for the UFC 229 mixed martial arts fight in Las Vegas. Nevada fight regulators postponed until next month hearings on suspensions against UFC fighters Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov for a brawl after their October match in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher, file)
John Locher/Associated Press

As is always the case with Conor McGregor, analysis this week is a bit of a moving target. Smashing a fan's phone, then getting arrested for it, is just the latest page in the McGregor Tome of Drama.

Before the outburst, the thread focused on a matchup between McGregor and a resurgent Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone. Following Cerrone's bloodying of Alex Hernandez in January, McGregor tweeted that he might just deign to allow Cowboy to share a cage with him.

Apparently, negotiations began forthwith, and recently it emerged that McGregor was refusing to compete in the co-main event slot.

Co-main event, the MMA community wondered? Conor McGregor? Those are odd concepts when combined together. But is it really that odd? Nathan McCarter and I are here to debate.

Nathan, we do not agree on this. No, we do not. But we are gentlemen of the media, and I invite you now to offer your wrong comments.

     

Nathan McCarter: There is no question that Conor is the biggest star in the company. There is no debate there, but that does not necessarily mean he should be the main event. The primary reason is that it doesn't really matter. Especially now that he isn't a champion.

Why does it not matter? Because it doesn't affect his pay.

McGregor is going to get his salary and the PPV points. The only difference is that he will be fighting in a three-round fight instead of a five-round fight. And that could be more beneficial to him against a fighter like Cowboy.

McGregor would still see all the benefits of this fight whether it is in the co-main event slot of the July 4 card, or whether it's a main event a few weeks later on a different card. It doesn't do any harm to his brand to fight in the co-main event.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 09:   Donald Cerrone answers questions during a Q&A after the UFC 234 weigh-in at Rod Laver Arena on February 09, 2019 in the Melbourne Australia. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

The UFC shouldn't put him as the co-main event to, say, a Jon Jones fight. The company would be diminishing their returns a bit.

But let's suppose that main event instead could be Amanda Nunes vs. Holly Holm, or Henry Cejudo vs. TJ Dillashaw II, or any other lower-draw title tilt. Then Conor brings value and helps give those fighters a bump. He can be seen as a benevolent king and earn some goodwill while still cashing his monster check.

    

Scott Harris: I kid, but Nathan makes an interesting point. McGregor will get his, so what does it matter?

Obviously, McGregor's planet-sized ego might find a reason or two, but even with that aside, there's still a key factor here that can't be overlooked.

Anything less than a McGregor main event is simply bad for business. And not just the McGregor business, but the UFC business. Why would they do anything that would take even a hint of shine off their golden goose?

Nathan, you allude to it a bit in your own response when you note that putting him in a back seat behind a certain fighter would diminish returns. I'd suggest that putting Conor in any back seat would be diminishing.

"People in the know" might understand the dynamics of a Conor co-main giving the main event a bump, but I'd wager that the huge majority of casual fans might not.

After that decisive loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov and the Floyd Mayweather Jr. boxing spectacle before it—and the huge, news-cycle-dominating controversies that accompanied each—McGregor and the UFC can't afford to do anything that might indicate a decrease in confidence in his abilities.

John Locher/Associated Press

Plus, a fight with Cerrone is just what the doctor ordered for McGregor. Here's an opponent with a high-octane style and a pretty solid following in his own right. This is the biggest payday of Cerrone's long career. He'll be delighted to contribute however he can.

There's no way this fight wouldn't be exciting, and both men are willing and able to sell it. This is a showcase matchup, and everyone wins. Why cut off your nose to spite your face?

    

Nathan McCarter: I think you hit on the crux of the issue: Does a co-main event spot hamper the perception of Conor?

I think the answer, truly, is in how much faith you give to fans. And I give the casual audience faith that the collective would not see this as a big negative. In fact, I think it could help his image after several of the recent negative events.

They won't bail on him or think less of him for a co-main. And it's not as if the UFC would abandon making him the focus of the marketing.

I won't argue there isn't danger. But that's the fight game. A loss, no matter in the co-main or main event, is the truly damaging prospect here. Fans will still view him as the most entertaining and bankable fighter with a win. Another loss, and to Cerrone, would end all of that. Not where he fights on the bill.

    

Scott Harris: The fight game, I'd suggest, is about making the most money. I think it's OK to think about making money on a long-term basis, and not just as a money grab in the short term. I'd rather invest in something that paid dividends over the long term.

But, hey, it will certainly be interesting to see how it all pans out. Here's hoping that whatever happens is best for the sport.

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