LOS ANGELES — UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor has vowed to move up in weight soon to fight for the lightweight title.
The two men he could face for that belt are both warning him to pick on somebody his own size.
UFC lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos faces Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone on Saturday night in a title fight in Orlando. UFC President Dana White says the winner’s next bout will be against McGregor if the popular Irish champion decides to move up from 145 to 155 pounds.
Dos Anjos and Cerrone dislike each other, but they agree McGregor’s fists wouldn’t pack quite so much punch in the larger weight class.
"He gets a lot of hype, and he’s a good fighter," Dos Anjos said. "But if he comes to the lightweight division, he’s going to get hurt."
McGregor ended featherweight champion Jose Aldo’s 10-year, 18-fight winning streak last Saturday with a stunning knockout just 13 seconds into their title fight at UFC 194 in Las Vegas. Afterward, McGregor repeated his intention to become a simultaneous two-belt champion, although he isn’t sure when he will try it.
"He’s too small to come to 155," Cerrone said. "His jaw is powerful. He’s got good talk. But he won’t fare (well) with the top (lightweight fighters). He might do good with the lower-ranked guys if they do the same thing they did with the (featherweights) and pick and choose his guys, but if they throw him in the (lightweight) top 10, no way."
McGregor’s celebrity has grown past every UFC fighter except Ronda Rousey, largely because he has recorded devastating stoppage victories in five straight fights and six of his seven UFC bouts. His vicious striking power has backed up his bold public pronouncements about taking over both divisions.
"I’m looking to replicate what I’ve achieved in a previous (promotion): a two-weight world champion held consecutively," McGregor said moments after beating Aldo. "I said I would do it, and I will do it."
Cerrone understands why McGregor is entertaining the prospect of a lightweight title run. McGregor acknowledges that his weight cut to 145 pounds is grueling, and his coach would prefer that McGregor no longer attempt such dramatic weight loss in the days before his fights.
"It’s like me going to 170 (pounds)," Cerrone said of the higher welterweight division. "I could do it, sure, but those guys are coming down from 200, 210 pounds. That’s why they make weight divisions, man."
Cerrone just doesn’t think McGregor’s power will work as well on bigger opponents, even if his gift of gab stays strong.
"I don’t have a personal problem with Conor," Cerrone said. "He’s playing the game. He’s a salesman. But if he wants to sell the fight, I don’t have a problem with that. If he wants to pump up the fight, I’ll slap him around and call him a little schoolgirl."
Although Cerrone thinks it’s a bad idea for McGregor, he would welcome the payday that will come to the opponent lucky enough to be matched with McGregor’s pay-per-view drawing power. Cerrone even volunteered to travel to Dublin for the bout.
"I’d go to Ireland. Why not?" Cerrone asked. "I’d stay over there for two weeks, too. Teach them Irish boys how to drink."
Dos Anjos also would love the matchup, and he is suppressing any hard feelings about McGregor’s meteoric rise after just seven UFC fights. The Brazilian laboured in the UFC for 18 bouts before finally getting a title shot in March, and he capitalized by beating Anthony Pettis to claim the 155-pound title.
"I don’t do short cuts," Dos Anjos said. "Everything I did, I did the hard way. It took so many fights for me to get my title shot, but if the UFC thinks I should fight him, I’m going to do it."