Conor McGregor, last seen losing to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the summer of 2017, returns to his comfort zone Saturday night, facing Khabib Nurmagomedov in a UFC 229 lightweight title fight.
That loss and his 693-day absence from UFC did nothing to sap McGregor’s confidence.
“It’s good to be back,” McGregor told UFC’s Megan Olivi. “I’m going to have a proper fight. I’m going to come out there fast. I don’t give a [expletive] about anything, any wrestling, any technique, anything. I’m coming for that man’s head from the [expletive] bell. Trust me on that.”
McGregor (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC) faces Nurmagomedov (26-0, 10-0) at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas in a main event that UFC President Dana White thinks could bring more than 3 million pay-per-view buys. During open workouts Wednesday, McGregor sparred for reporters with one of his coaches, jumping around and kicking and jabbing away. Then he made a bold forecast for the fight.
“Devastating KO,” predicted McGregor, who was formerly the lightweight and featherweight UFC titleholder before his hiatus from the sport. “Too easy to hit, too flat-footed, too predictable. I’m going to knock him clean out.”
During his absence, McGregor also made headlines for a non-sanctioned fight he got into when he gate-crashed UFC 223 media day last April, throwing a metal handcart through the window of a bus that was carrying Nurmagomedov and other fighters and staffers at the Barclays Center. McGregor pleaded guilty to a single count of disorderly conduct last summer as part of a deal with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office in which he was given no jail time and will not have a criminal record. He also was ordered to pay full restitution to the bus company. Michael Chiesa, whose injuries led to his removal from the UFC event held at the arena, filed suit against McGregor earlier this month, alleging that McGregor’s actions caused him physical, emotional and financial harm.
McGregor reportedly was looking to settle a perceived score with Nurmagomedov, who would go on to win the UFC lightweight title at the April event, and Nurmagomedov indicated recently that he might do a little trash talking about the bus incident. “With him, I’m going to talk a little bit different,” Nurmagomedov told ESPN. “Make him humble, teach him, sometimes slap him, make him tired. I’m gonna ask him, ‘Where is your bus, now? Where is your other guys? What happen now? Where is everything? Bring everybody here.’”
On Wednesday, he was a bit more circumspect. McGregor had called him a “Dagestani rat,” in reference to his homeland, so he took a carefully aimed shot back at the Irishman.
“This guy talks [about] fighting against English, but his grandfather, Christopher McGregor, was with the English navy,” Nurmagomedov said (via the Las Vegas Review Journal). “And he killed your people. And now you guys [Irish fans who were booing him Wednesday] support him. I’m gonna change this Saturday night.
“In three days, you’re going to like me.”
Not if McGregor can keep up with his own mouth.
“It’s good to be back doing what I love to do, competing in front of my fans,” McGregor said. “I’m going to take his head off. Trust me.”
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