An intriguing lightweight matchup between Conor McGregor and Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone has been in the works for weeks but negotiations have reportedly hit a snag.
According to UFC cageside commentator Joe Rogan, who frequently discusses mixed martial arts on his popular podcast The Joe Rogan Experience, the holdup in finalizing the bout is McGregor refusing to settle for a co-main event slot.
Cerrone confirmed as much to ESPN’s Brett Okamoto on Thursday.
“Conor won’t fight unless it’s a main event,” Cerrone said. “I don’t know if it’s an ego thing or a status thing for him. I don’t give a [expletive]. I’ll fight anyone, anywhere, and I stand by that all the time. I guess he’s a prima donna and only takes main event spots. I don’t know.”
The potential matchup first gained traction in January when Cerrone humbled upstart Alex Hernandez with a dominant technical knockout victory that caught the eye of McGregor. Cerrone said after his win that he wanted a top-five opponent at lightweight next and that prompted McGregor to respond in a tweet: “For a fight like that Donald, I’ll fight you. Congratulations.”
Cerrone told Okamoto the UFC initially explored an April 16 fight date before turning their attention to July 6.
“We were all waiting on Conor for April, and he said he wasn’t ready,” Cerrone explained. “I don’t know how in one breath you can say, ‘I’ll fight anyone, anytime, anywhere,’ and the next one say, ‘I’m not ready for that one.’ … Sack up, [expletive]. Sign the [expletive] paper.”
UFC brass is insistent on pay-per-view cards being headlined by title fights, Rogan explained, and since a McGregor-Cerrone matchup would be a non-title fight it wouldn’t qualify to headline a PPV event.
However, McGregor remains the biggest star in the sport and one of his fights would overshadow any other fight regardless of his placement on the card. So, while some might be asking why McGregor is making negotiations difficult, a better question might be why is the organization not simply booking this fight as a main event in the first place? It’s not like they haven’t done it before.
The most recent UFC PPV main event that didn’t have a belt on the line — excluding UFC 234 since that main event was cancelled the morning of the fight — was UFC 202 when McGregor had his rematch with Nate Diaz.
That fight from August 2016 ended up being the biggest UFC PPV card in history and remained in the top spot until this past October, when McGregor headlined UFC 229 against lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Cerrone is convinced that if he fought McGregor it would generate huge numbers — and it’s hard to disagree with that — but he also understands he has little say in the matter at the end of the day.
“I call the UFC and tell them what to do, they tell me to shut the [expletive] up and go sit in the corner,” Cerrone added. “I don’t have any say on that stuff. What I do know is July is the latest I’m fighting. That’s the [expletive] latest. I will not wait longer than that.”