Conor McGregor's return to the UFC is scheduled for January 18 in Las Vegas, and the Irishman will fight Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone at welterweight, UFC president Dana White says.
“Conor has signed and Cowboy is ready to go,” White told ESPN on Thursday.
McGregor has not won a fight since his second round knockout over Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 in 2016.
Since then he made approximately $100 million losing to Floyd Mayweather in a 2017 boxing match, before getting dominated then submitted by his lightweight rival Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2018.
He has not fought in 2019 and has instead been embroiled in controversies away from sport, including slapping a fan's phone out of their hand and breaking it, appearing to punch a man in a Dublin bar, and allegations of sexual assault. McGregor denies those sexual assault allegations.
He has also apologized for the Dublin bar incident, and saw criminal charges against him over the fan's phone dropped.
McGregor's comeback at the UFC 246 show will be contested in the 170-pound weight class, which is a division he has only twice fought in before, losing one then winning one in a two-fight rivalry with Nate Diaz.
Experts say this is a prelude to a fight with Jorge Masvidal
Jorge Masvidal is on a tear right now.
The Floridian fighter is currently considered the “baddest mother-f—–” in MMA after he beat Darren Till in London, Ben Askren with a five second flying knee, and Nate Diaz because of a doctor's stoppage.
The Diaz victory earned him the inaugural “BMF” belt, and experts believe the seasoned welterweight could defend that title against McGregor in a later showdown at some point in 2020.
The MMA Fighting reporter Damon Martin tweeted: “The end goal for Conor might be getting back to Khabib but the fact that this [the Cerrone fight] is at 170 makes me think he's aiming for a BMF title shot with a win.”
Fightland, The Athletic, and CNN writer Dan Shapiro said: “Conor vs. Cowboy can really be great, honestly. But not super jazzed on the 170. Just makes me feel like neither guy wants to work too hard for the fight and that the winner will campaign for a BMF title shot.”
And the Twitter account for the sports podcast Fight Disciples said: “If Conor comes through Cowboy, he will call out Masvidal for the BMF.”
—Fight Disciples (@FightDisciples) November 28, 2019