Photos by Tom Szczerbowski and Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

If Conor McGregor isn’t retired, he simply has to fight Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone.

Cerrone put on an incredibly impressive performance over a game Al Iaquinta (highlights here) in the main event of last night’s (Sat., May 4, 2019) UFC on ESPN+ 9 from the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The victory was so good, in fact, that ‘Cowboy’ even rekindled his rivalry with the (somewhat) retired Conor McGregor. ‘Cowboy’ is looking to fight McGregor in July if that’s possible.

The fight seemed to be almost a certainty after ‘The Notorious’ agreed to fight ‘Cowboy’ after the latter’s impressive win over Alexander Hernandez back in January. But Cerrone admitted it was no longer a reality in the lead-up to UFC Ottawa.

However, it was soon back on ‘Cowboy’ said, if he couldn’t get the title shot he wanted next. In reality, a fighter with McGregor may be easier to get than a title shot. The victory over Iaquinta is an amazing one for sure, but he’s likely to need one more win to face the winner of Khabib vs. Dustin Poirier.

Perhaps a win over Tony Ferguson (if he can return) will get him there.

McGregor Retired?

But back to McGregor.

Amid multiple scandals like his Miami arrest and a sexual assault investigation, the UFC’s biggest star has been more concerned with his Proper Twelve Irish Whiskey than actual fighting. You can hardly blame him. Getting paid multiple millions for promoting your own liquor is a smoother path to profit than getting punched in the face by the most dangerous unarmed men on the planet. He even retired on social media, yet that doesn’t seem to be sticking.

Like it or not, McGregor is truly a transcendent crossover star the likes of which MMA has never seen. His recent online friendship with world-famous actor Sylvester Stallone after ‘Sly’ offered McGregor his UFC equity proves it.

But even though he doesn’t need to fight, McGregor also seemingly shut down his retirement on social media last week. He loves the fight game too much, he claims, and probably isn’t done because of that view. So if he is not and still has a one or two fights left in him, he simply has to fight Cerrone. The latest callout after yet another win is just too much to turn down. McGregor also isn’t ready for an immediate rematch against Khabib Nurmagomedov.

He’s without a UFC victory since late 2016. Nothing in their first fight suggested a rematch would go any differently than the one-sided outcome from UFC 229.

The Best Match-Up

Unlike that fight, however, ‘Cowboy’ may be willing to strike with McGregor unlike the champ. He has a sneakily lethal submission game that would pose problems for ‘The Notorious,’ but Cerrone is known mostly for his Muay Thai style.

Cerrone is a fan-favorite fighter with a long list of UFC records to his name. Who else should ‘The Notorious’ fight if he’s truly going to come back? You could argue maybe the foregone conclusion of his trilogy with Nate Diaz, yet that’s far from guaranteed. With the infamous Irishman wanting a piece of UFC ownership to return, things also get a bit complicated. The fact remains that McGregor vs. Cerrone is simply a license to print money.

‘Cowboy’ keeps winning, and with each victory, the match-up becomes harder and harder to deny. If McGregor truly is not retired, the UFC should find a way to make this fight happen. They may not care as much now that their new pay-per-view (PPV) deal with ESPN doesn’t pressure them to sell as many PPV buys any longer. That said, there’s also just no reason not to book it if they can.

Too Early For UFC 239?

July 6’s UFC 239 is already stacked to the brim.

McGregor vs. ‘Cowboy’ would put it over the top into potentially historic territory. It may be too short a notice to get the fight negotiated with ‘Notorious” side. But if it could be set up for the winner to face the victor of Khabib vs. Poirier this September, that’d be quite the direction for the stacked lightweight division.

Just another reason of many that McGregor should return against Cerrone.

We’ll have to wait and see if the UFC will pony up the cash to get their biggest star back in the cage. At this point, it’s a lot. As always, it will be worth it, and there’s no other man for him to face than ‘Cowboy.’