The fighters face off on Saturday, January 18 in the main event of UFC 246 (10 pm EST; ESPN+ PPV) in a highly anticipated bout that marks McGregor's first Octagon appearance since he was defeated by Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229 in October 2018.
Ahead of that superfight, McGregor called Khabib a rat and branded his manager a "terrorist snitch", among other heated insults. But a kinder, gentler McGregor was much more charitable toward Cerrone, a rugged fan favorite who holds the record for most wins and most finishes in UFC history.
"It's hard not to respect Donald right now at this stage," McGregor said. "He has my respect. And although there will be blood spilled on Jan. 18, it will not be bad blood. And for the Mystic Mac prediction, it will be a KO."
As ESPN notes, the pair previously clashed at a 2015 UFC press event, though they weren't slated to fight each other. Cerrone claimed that McGregor was too small for the 155-pound division. McGregor responded by calling Cerrone "stiff as a board." Now they're competing in the 170-pound division, and they've both changed their tunes.
"He did everything he said he was gonna do, didn't he ?" Cerrone said when asked his thoughts about McGregor's career. "Any feelings? Yeah, he's fucking great man and I'm honored to share the thing with him."
When a reporter asked McGregor about two sexual assault allegations against him reported by the New York Times, Cerrone actually came to the Irish superstar's defense. "We're here to talk about a fight, nothing he does outside of fighting," Cerrone said.
McGregor has repeatedly said that this fight will be the first of his 2020 UFC "season." A reported asked if McGregor if he might be a part of the yet-to-be determined card at UFC 248, which is scheduled for March 7 in Las Vegas.
"Yes," McGregor said. "God willing, we come out safe from this bout here Saturday night. Most certainly, March would be well attainable."
"Line them fuckin' up," he added when asked about potential opponents. "I couldn't care. Any weight, any division. Any anything. I am in prime condition and ready to go."
According to USA Today, Las Vegas oddsmakers have McGregor (-334) heavily favored over Cerrone (+260). A $100 wager on the McGregor would yield a $29.94 profit if he wins, and the same wager on Cerrone would yield a $260 profit.
UFC 246's main card begins at 10 p.m. ET on Saturday night and also features Holly Holm vs. Raquel Pennington, Maurice Greene vs. Aleksei Oleinik, Claudia Gadelha vs. Alexa Grasso, and Diego Ferreira vs. Anthony Pettis.