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Conor McGregor returns to face Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone at UFC 246

UFC fighter Conor McGregor attends a news conference

UFC fighter Conor McGregor attends a news conference in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019.  Credit: AP/Pavel Golovkin

After more than a year away from competing in the octagon -- a time marked by legal issues -- Conor McGregor is set to make his return.

McGregor, a former two-division UFC champion and the biggest star in mixed martial arts, has signed a contract to fight Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone at UFC 246 on Jan. 18 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, according to an ESPN report on Thanksgiving. The fight will take place in the 170-pound welterweight division.

For his part on Thanskgiving, Cerrone posted a composite photo of a bottle of McGregor's Proper Twelve Irish Whiskey and a bottle of Budweiser, a longtime sponsor of Cerrone. 

Who will win: Conor McGregor vs. Donald Cerrone?

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McGregor rose to stardom in the UFC's 145-pound featherweight division, then won the 155-pound lightweight title in 2016. This will be his third fight at welterweight. He lost to Nate Diaz the first time, then beat Diaz by majority decision in the rematch, both in 2016.

His last MMA fight took place on Oct. 6, 2018, where he was submitted in the fourth round by lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. It was another dominant performance by the Russian. But lost in the melee afterward, and the suspensions by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, was the fact that McGregor (21-4) won round three on the judges' scorecards. That was the first and only round Nurmagomedov has lost in his 12-fight UFC career.

That also was McGregor's only MMA fight since winning the lightweight title in November 2016 at UFC 205, the first MMA event at Madison Square Garden. He also boxed and lost to Floyd Mayweather in 2017.

In March 2019, McGregor was arrested and charged with felony strong-armed robbery and criminal mischief after police said he smashed a fan’s phone outside the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami. Those charged were dropped in May.

In October 2019, he pleaded guilty to punching a man in a bar in Ireland in April and paid a fine.

Also in October, The New York Times reported that McGregor, 31, was under investigation in Ireland for two sexual assault allegations. No charges have been filed.

Cerrone (36-13) has lost his last two fights, both by stoppage. In September, he lost by knockout to Justin Gaethje. Last June, he lost by doctor's stoppage because of a swollen eye against Tony Ferguson. Both of those were lightweight fights, the division where Cerrone, 36, spent most of his career. He also went 6-4 as a welterweight before returning to the lightweight division in 2019.

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