Conor McGregor must back up noise against Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone

Conor McGregor has made a fortune because the loudest bark usually gets the most attention, and until recently the brash Irishman has been able to back up most of his boasts.

Despite having gone 2-2 in his past four MMA bouts, McGregor still carries himself as the sport’s top attraction, a standard that could be tested when he faces Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone Saturday night in Las Vegas at UFC 246.

Making noise is what McGregor does best and that’s what all this talk about a rematch with Floyd Mayweather or a boxing match with Manny Pacquiao is right now: noise.

First things first. McGregor has to defeat Cerrone on Saturday night to prove he remains one of the elite fighters in the UFC and not just its loudest. There was a time when McGregor seemed invincible and talented enough to do the miraculous — like contend with Mayweather in a boxing match even though he had never boxed as a pro and Mayweather was 49-0.

The public bought it to the tune of 4.3 million pay-view buys and McGregor walked away with nearly $100 million while Mayweather made in excess of $250 million. The fight was anticlimactic after all the buildup. Mayweather carried McGregor through the early rounds and finished him in the 10th, scoring a TKO when McGregor’s hands dropped and the fight was stopped.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. McGregor insists he was competitive in the fight and is worthy of a rematch.

“I’d like to rematch Floyd,” he told Ariel Helwani of ESPN. “I think we should rematch Floyd. I mean, he’s flirting with it and they want all this. And he can go and pick someone else. It’s not going to be the same. I’ve done phenomenal in that bout.”

But that sounds like a money grab. Neither Mayweather or Pacquiao are opposed to cash, but McGregor boxing in a second fight won’t have the curiosity that the original Mayweather-McGregor bout did. McGregor was hardly phenomenal unless you consider merely surviving that long before being stopped an accomplishment.

Pacquiao isn’t an intriguing option. Imagine the buildup for that fight. McGregor calling Pacquiao every name in the book while the Senator from the Philippines sits there and smiles.

“We’re actually close to signing Manny,” McGregor offered. “There’s been talks about the Manny fight as well.”

A Mayweather-Pacquiao rematch of their 2015 fight would be more intriguing than anything involving McGregor. Mayweather has shown no real inclination to get back in the ring. He hints at a return every now and then, especially when there’s a big fight in Vegas. But he seems content in retirement running Mayweather Promotions and living the life of an unbeaten champion.

Mayweather is smart enough to know a second McGregor fight won’t bring in the same kind of revenue the first bout did when it exceeded $600 million to become the biggest PPV haul of all time.

McGregor best focus on Cerrone, a veteran MMA fighter, who can win either with his standup or his ground game. Cerrone has been active, while this is McGregor’s first fight in more than a year.

After losing to Khabib Nurmagomedov in his last MMA bout, the Irishman needs to prove he’s at the top of his game in his day job before venturing into boxing again.

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