CONOR MCGREGOR marked his return to the octagon in sensational style with victory over Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone in just 40 seconds at UFC 246 in Las Vegas.
The Irishman made short work of the American fan favourite with referee Herb Dean forced to step in and wave off the contest with less than a minute on the clock.
The 31-year-old’s victory marked his first inside the octagon since his UFC world title victory in November 2016.
It also represented a significant step towards laying to rest the ghosts of his shock fourth-round defeat by submission to bitter rival and UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229 in October 2018.
"I made history tonight. I set a new record. I'm the first fighter in UFC history to secure knockout victories at featherweight, at lightweight and now at welterweight - across three weight divisions, so I'm very proud of that," McGregor said after the contest.
"It's a good shot of mine, maybe they should say I'm just a left shoulder like they say I'm just a left hand."
Shoulders, headkicks and raining serious strikes. @TheNotoriousMMA breaks down his stunning 40-second KO of Donald Cerrone at #UFC246.
Oh, and props Grandma Cerrone 👏 pic.twitter.com/iuEPBCEqgw
— UFC on BT Sport (@btsportufc) January 19, 2020
It was a blistering display from the Dubliner, who came out flying with a huge left hand that was quickly followed up by a series of shoulders to Cerrone’s face.
With the American reeling, McGregor appeared to all but seal victory with a huge head kick that had the Cowboy reeling.
The Irishman followed that up with several left hands before Cerrone fell to the canvas, with McGregor piling in with a flurry of strikes that sealed a quickfire victory.
Reflecting on the performance in the immediate aftermath, McGregor expressed his delight at the nature of his victory.
"One of the records he holds [is] the most head-kick knockouts. I'm so happy to be able to get him down with a head kick myself," he said.
"The UFC can strip fighters and give to other fighters make-believe belts in order to replicate my 'champ-champ' status. But they can't give knockout victories across multiple weight divisions, so there you go again. Etch my name in history one more time.
"I like this weight division. I feel really good. God willing, I came out of here unscathed. I'm in shape. I don't believe I'm there yet, though. I've still got work to do to get back to where I was."
Attention now turns to McGregor’s next bout with a plethora of options open to the Irishman – both in and out of the Octagon.
The Notorious could opt to face Kamaru Usman in a welterweight title fight or the UFC's "BMF" champion Jorge Masvidal in his new weight class of 170lb.
There is also the prospect of a potential return to boxing with a big-money rematch with Floyd Mayweather one option along with a possible fight against Mannay Pacquiao.
However, McGregor has made no secret of his desire to set up a rematch with
Nurmagomedov in a return to one of the most bitter rivalries in the history of the sport.