UFC 229 will forever be remembered as a seminal moment for the sport of mixed martial arts, an event that well and truly blew the door open as Dana and co. forced their way into the mainstream eye.
It was a night that saw the promotion break almost every record in the book as the pairing of UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and challenger Conor McGregor brought in a staggering 2.4 million pay-per-view buys.
Of course, Khabib was able to impose his will on his opponent for the most part over the course of the fight’s four-round duration, winning the bout by way of neck-crank – forcing the tap from the depleted Irishman.
And while the matchup was no doubt a particularly bad one for the striker, one of the main narratives to surround the fight in the direct aftermath was McGregor’s supposed lack of motivation in his preparations.
It’s hard to know exactly how things played out in Conor’s camp in the lead-up to last year’s title-clash but love him or hate him, it’s hard to deny that the fighter who ran through Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 was not the same fighter who shared the octagon with The Eagle on that night.
Speaking on a recent edition of MMAFighting‘s Eurobash podcast, McGregor’s long-time coach Owen Roddy spoke about the re-emergence of structure in his protegé’s efforts this time around as he gets set to take on Donald Cerrone at UFC 246.
“The training camp is structured way better.”
“The last camp was just a bit sporadic. We didn’t know what time we were training at.
“Sometimes it was very late at night, sometimes it was early in the morning and nobody really knew.”
A similar issue in preparation was cited by Conor and his team in the wake of his UFC 196 defeat to Nate Diaz – a battle that spiralled both fighters into a rivalry that still lies amongst the most spectacular in the sport’s history.
The big questions that surround Conor this time around will no doubt be answered as soon as the cage doors close on January 18 and in the eyes of his coach, his fans’ fears will be put to bed as soon as they see him return.
“You can see that’s reaping the benefits and rewards already from that.
“I think when you start to see some footage of him training, he starts to do his interviews and he starts building the fight, you’re going to see the old Conor back. I can see that already.
“When people see that, they’re going to say, ‘that’s the Conor we fell in love with.’
“He has that hunger again. A hungry, dedicated and motivated Conor McGregor is a scary dude.”
Many of Conor’s fervent detractors have, of course, voiced their frustration at this matchup and its apparent favourability for the returning Irishman.
At this point in his career, though, now over three years removed from his last victory, the test that Cerrone will offer will no doubt be the perfect one to gauge exactly where the sport’s biggest star fits into the UFC’s current landscape.