The UFC president was effusive in his praise of “The Notorious” after the former two-division champion made a successful return to the Octagon in the main event of UFC 246 following a 15-month hiatus. McGregor needed just 40 seconds to dispatch of longtime veteran Donald Cerrone and remind everyone of his star power.
“I was blown away. He looked unbelievable,” White said at the evening’s post-fight press conference. “You won’t hear another peep out of me about fighting at 170. I know there’s always critics and there’s always somebody who has an opinion. People are going to say Cowboy was shot, which is total bulls*it.
“Conor McGregor came out, he looked fast, he hit hard, he had a gameplan, and he finished a real tough kid who came to win.”
White wasn’t interested in discussing whether McGregor should stay at welterweight given that his fight with “Cowboy” was contested at 170 pounds. He also scoffed at the notion that McGregor’s impressive win had more to do with the wear-and-tear that Cerrone has suffered over the course of 51 professional fights.
In White’s eyes, all the credit should go to McGregor.
“He fought a ‘55-pounder tonight,” White said. “People are gonna [question what division McGregor should fight in], it’s just you can’t stop it, this is what people do, media, fans, whatever. Conor McGregor looked ridiculous tonight. Nobody saw that coming. Nobody. And the way that he went in there, the way that he did it, he looked sharp, he looked fast, he looked strong.
“It was all about Conor, it had nothing to do with Cowboy being shot or anything like that.”
As for what was different about McGregor compared to the fighter’s last outing at UFC 229, where he was submitted by lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, White believes that McGregor is “happy” for the first time in a while and that this disposition carried over into his preparation and execution on fight night.
He put McGregor in a class of his own, especially given the gap between his last two fights. An avid boxing fan, White was wowed by McGregor’s ability to shake off any metaphorical “ring rust” to get back into the win column for the first time in over three years.
“That kid has an incredible fight IQ and he has the speed, the power, and the ability to back it up and implement it,” White said of what separates McGregor from other fighters.
“The other thing that makes it different is—more importantly than you lose one and you come back—the time off. Time off is usually never very good for fighters. You stay active, you stay in better shape, your timing is better, all that stuff. Many of you know throughout the years with me talking, I’m a big believer in ring rust. I believe in ring rust, it’s real, I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it happen, I’ve seen it play out. We didn’t see it tonight.”