Harv currently writes for Abstract Sports, the Sports History Network, and the magazine Gridiron Greats. Harv wrote the published book "Pro Football's Most Passionate Fans" and as a professional writer has had articles published in an array of sports publications.
UFC 246: Cowboy Takes a Dive
With UFC 246 in the books, now that the smoke has cleared there is a bad smell from the result of the main event that pitted the return of Conor McGregor taking on Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone. With a fight that lasted just 40 seconds, many fans are accusing Cerrone of taking a dive and handing the victory to McGregor.
I’m one of those fans and before anyone shouts out “conspiracy theory” or thinks I’m crazy for believing this fight was a farce, there are several facts to consider. I give you bullet points that make the result of this bout suspicious and at least a bit of a head-scratcher. I’m a strong believer in “where’s there smoke, there’s fire.” At UFC 246 in the main event there is no question there was smoke.
- Back in December, Donald Cerrone was being interviewed by Damon Martin of MMA Fighting. He was asked if he would ever lay down in a fight. Now I ask you, why would someone pose that question to a fighter? It was almost like he was assuming this stunt might just happen at UFC 246. Cerrone’s response was this:
- "Hell no, I'm not bowing down. There's a bunch of s--t going around, people keep telling me 'I heard you're getting paid to take a dive.' There wouldn’t be enough money in the world for someone to pay me to take a dive. I could never look myself in the mirror if somebody paid me to take a dive. S--t, never happen.”
- With the previous commentary on the books, think about Cerrone’s history. Sure he has lost and he’s been knocked out seven times and submitted once. But in those losses, he did not go down without a fight. He battled. He went toe-to-toe before succumbing. That, and Cowboy has mixed it up with some of the best fighters of his era:
- Justin Gaethje, Tony Ferguson, Al Iaquinta, Mike Perry, Leon Edwards, Yance Medeiros, Darren Till, Robbie Lawler, Jorge Masvidal, Matt Brown, Rick Story, Patrick Cote, Alex Oliveira, Rafael dos Anjos, Benson Henderson, Myles Jury, Eddie Alvarez, Jim Miller, Edson Barboza, Even Dunham, KJ Noons, Anthony Pettis, Melvin Guillard, Jeremy Stephens, Nate Diaz, and Jamie Varner.
- So with all that experience and the most victories in UFC history (36), 17 submissions and 10 knockouts, he can’t last more than 40 seconds with a fighter who had not fought in 15 months? In that quick 40 seconds, McGregor landed 20 strikes to the Cowboy’s one attempt that was a whiff.
- Donald Cerrone is known for his grappling, submission, and kicking talents. But before this fight went down, Cowboy made sure the world knew that his strategy for this fight would be to abandon his normal style and “see what McGregor has” by going toe-to-toe. That was a tip-off that he would take strikes so he could bow out quickly.
- Once the bell rang, and McGregor drew Cerrone in close, he began throwing his now infamous (and quite frankly borrowed from Nate Diaz) shoulder bumps. Cerrone used those and part of the excuse for losing but as the Irishman was lifting his shoulder to the face of Cerrone, Cowboy just took several of them without trying to avoid them or defend them. The fact that Cerrone did not fight this fight makes it very suspect. He’s normally a battler and has in the past showed a tough chin with tons of heart. Mysteriously that disappeared at UFC 246.
- Once Cerrone hit the canvas he turtled up and failed to try to get up. He gave up and quit. To make matters worse, in his post-fight interview, he was smiling and laughing, hugging his grandmother, yukking it up with McGregor...is that was a losing fighter who cares does? More suspicion right there. Cerrone said in that MMA Fighting interview “I could never look myself in the mirror if somebody paid me to take a dive.” Well, now he will spend the remainder of this fighting career looking in the mirror and wondering what if he had ignored the enormity of the return of Conor McGregor and refused to be swayed by how important the Irish fighter is to Dana White and how much the UFC President wants and needs McGregor to be significant in the sport. What if he fought like Donald Cerrone knows how to fight? The result would have been tremendously different.
- If you missed the pre-fight press conference, Conor McGregor in some words welcomed Donald Cerrone to the million-dollar fight club but in the end, it was McGregor who netted a $3 million payday while the loser left with just $200,000. $200k for a man who has been fighting since 2006 and has stepped into the Octagon 51 times. What does that tell you when the winner earns $1,800,000 more for 40 seconds of work? More money under the table for bowing out perhaps?
- Conor predicted a knockout...end result? McGregor knockout. Additionally, the fact that Cerrone dropping F-bombs in the pre-fight press conference and talking about blowing the roof of the building and fighting their tails off then laying an egg in the bout? The friendly banter between the two and the incredibly uncomfortable complimentary exchanges? Strange.
- Incredibly, Donald Cerrone has had just one title shot in the UFC and he lost to Rafael dos Anjos. When fighting in the WEC he got to a championship bout twice, once for an interim belt and then for the real title both losses to Benson Henderson. Meanwhile, Conor McGregor has had about half the number of fights, has lost four times all by submission, and has been in six title bouts. The one loss in those six bouts will be the one those who do not care for McGregor remember the most. That was the submission loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov. In that lightweight title bout, McGregor was beaten down, choked out, and embarrassed.
So what this boils down to is my original point about whether or not Donald Cerrone took a dive. Dana White has led Conor McGregor into being a leading contender and champion by giving him shortcuts. White and McGregor have very close ties and they both know that with McGregor at the top and being significant means one thing...MONEY. That’s Dana White’s best friend...the green stuff. Therefore, had Donald Cerrone beaten McGregor, a Cerrone-Khabib fight or Cerrone vs. Kamara Usman, even Cerrone vs. Jorge Masvidal would simply not bring in the pay-per-view sales that any of those aforementioned versus McGregor would do.
Did White pay off Donald Cerrone to just not fight, take punches and go down easy without fighting back so that referee Herb Dean would have no choice but to stop the fight as he did? We will never know. If that was the case there is no way any of the three involved (White, Cerrone, McGregor) would admit that.
But, Donald Cerrone may have decided to do what’s in the best interest for the company he works for knowing McGregor will bring multitudes of attention to the sport he says he loves or perhaps there was some push and influence on him to simply not fight and certainly abandon what has made him so successful in the sport. For Donald Cerrone to admit before the bout he was not going to use his typical style and instead step into McGregor’s wheelhouse and take a chance then lose embarrassingly and laugh about it? You’d have to be a fool or ignorant to not even suspect that something was awry at UFC 246. He also made mention that people had said he could not win the big one. Well, he failed to win a big one again.
For those who want to point out the damage to Cerrone’s face, the Cowboy does bleed and bruise up easily. Just go back to his Tony Ferguson fight where his face was terribly beaten but yet he wanted to continue. He was not hurt in this fight for a second yet he went down to the canvas like a whimpering dog. It simply does not make sense and the puzzle pieces just don’t fit.
There will be those who read this and call me crazy, call me a conspiracy theorist, say that the result of Conor McGregor vs. Donald Cerrone was legitimate, and more so there will be those like Joe Rogan and the rest of the broadcast crew who are singing the praises of Conor McGregor calling him one of the greatest fighters ever. That to me is a joke. This is my opinion and I don't’ expect many to agree. But I’ve seen all of Conor McGregor’s fights and for me, he is NOWHERE near being one of UFC’s best ever.
I believe Conor McGregor is WAY overrated. Why? Sure he beat the great Jose Aldo. Knocked him out with one punch even. But wait...Aldo has been knocked out just three times in his 34 fight career, twice to Max Holloway and that lost to McGregor. Still, he is one of the best ever because he was a champion and defended his belt many times. Are you aware that of the two title belts McGregor won he NEVER defended either of them? Not once.
Aldo has proved his toughness in the Octagon but yet he gets hit once by McGregor and is done? I don’t believe Conor McGregor hits that hard. The Dustin Poirier fight was stopped too soon. He lost the first time to Nate Diaz and was red-faced and choked out in that one. In the rematch, he won but many thought he lost that decision. Eddie Alvarez who appeared to be one of the toughest fighters in the sport went down in a hail of strikes to McGregor. Suspicious.
Unlike Donald Cerrone, Conor McGregor’s record of fights lists nowhere near the number of great fighters that the Cowboy has faced. You have to feel for Justin Gaethje. He has 21 wins in 23 bouts and after winning his last three fights by knockout (James Vick, Edson Barboza, and Cerrone), Gaethje is not getting the winner of the Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib fight as he should, instead, the talk is about a rematch with Conor McGregor and Khabib will most assuredly end the same way the first bout did and probably worse. In Justin Gaethje’s six UFC fights, he has gone home with four “Fight of the Night” bonuses and three “Performance of the Night” bonuses. But here we have Conor McGregor grabbing all the attention and headlines. This from a guy who’s track record on the streets with legal issues has been a nightmare.
As for the best ever in the UFC? I’m sure Jon Jones would argue that. So would Demetrius Johnson. You have to include the females in the argument and both Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko have more talent on one hand than does Conor McGregor in his entire arsenal. B.J. Penn in his prime was a far superior fighter to McGregor as was Matt Hughes and let us not forget the legendary Georges St. Pierre. So what makes Conor McGregor so special and popular?
It’s because Dana White has gone above and beyond to cater to the Irishman and ensure that he finds ways to keep him relative and they enjoy each other’s company. That’s not the case with other fighters who have a poor history with Dana White. White did this same thing with Rhonda Rousey until she was exposed. I believe eventually Conor McGregor will be exposed...again. Just as Khabib Nurmagomedov has already done and will do again if they fight a rematch.
The bottom line from UFC 246 is you can either choose to believe the result of the main event was on the up and up and legitimate, or you can use your own personal microscope and examine closely the results and have even just an inkling of doubt. I have far more than an inkling.