Once Conor McGregor eventually arrived at Thursday’s news conference to promote his showdown with Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229, he engaged in plenty of his familiar bravado and trash-talking. However, this time McGregor’s verbal jabs weren’t just aimed at his opponent in Saturday’s megafight, but also the Russian lightweight champion’s manager.
Nurmagomedov’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, is a “[expletive] snitch terrorist rat,” said McGregor.
The Irishman went on to claim that Abdelaziz had been “pulled off a flight” from Cairo to New York on Sept. 11, 2001, and was “caught with five passports in his possession.” Abdelaziz “turned informant and turned on the people he was working with,” McGregor said, adding, “I don’t even know why that man is in this [expletive] country.”
McGregor had previously targeted Abdelaziz during a UFC 229 promotional event last month in New York, yelling, “You terrorist snitch!” at the Egypt native. McGregor added at the time, “I know a lot about you as well, you mad rat.” (Warning: profanity in video below.)
McGregor was referring, at least in part, to reports that Abdelaziz worked several years ago as a government counterterrorism informant. His name appears in a 2013 book titled “Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and bin Laden’s Final Plot Against America,” in which authors Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman (via Bloody Elbow) claim that Abdelaziz was recruited by the New York Police Department to work as a mole within a Virginia-based arm of a group called Muslims of America.
According to the book, the NYPD shared Abdelaziz with the FBI, but the federal agency eventually began to suspect he was operating as a double agent, particularly after he was reportedly administered a polygraph examination. “The FBI severed its relationship with Abdelaziz,” the authors wrote, “and the government tried unsuccessfully to deport him.”
“Don’t ever take information from an informant, but that’s what that man is doing,” McGregor told the assembled crowd of journalists and fans at the Park Theater in Las Vegas. “He’s a rat bastard, and I’m going to get him on Saturday night.”
Abdelaziz’s only public reaction to McGregor’s accusations Thursday was to post a tweet with emoji crying tears of laughter.
Before the news conference, Abdelaziz was asked by ESPN’s Ariel Helwani if he was offended at being called a “terrorist” by McGregor at the New York event.
“I don’t care, he can call me anything — I don’t give a [expletive],” replied Abdelaziz, who also has several other MMA fighters, including Frankie Edgar, Cody Garbrandt and Fabricio Werdum, in the stable at his management company, Dominance.
“It doesn’t offend me one [expletive] bit, because at the end of the day, he’s not fighting me, he’s fighting Khabib,” Abdelaziz added. He said that under other circumstances, without security staffers and police officers on hand, if anyone said such a thing to his face he’d “slap” his antagonist, but the manager asserted that he did not want to create unnecessary “drama” for his client ahead of the biggest fight of Nurmagomedov’s career.
There certainly doesn’t seem to be any need for extra bad blood ahead of the event, set to take place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, considering what happened earlier this year. Apparently angered by a confrontation between Nurmagomedov and another MMA fighter who is a training partner of McGregor’s, the latter stormed into a parking area underneath Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in April, looking for Nurmagomedov.
Instead of having it out with Nurmagomedov directly, McGregor wound up attacking a bus containing fighters and staffers who were at the arena for UFC 223. He threw a metal barricade at a window of the bus, smashing glass and injuring several people on board, including two fighters who had to be removed from the card.
One of those fighters, Michael Chiesa, has sued McGregor for causing him physical, financial and emotional harm, while the Irishman was arrested but was able to avoid felony charges and plead to a single count of disorderly conduct. The fight against Nurmagomedov (26-0-0, 8 knockouts, 8 submissions) will be the first MMA event for McGregor (21-3, 18 KOs, 1 submission) in nearly two years; his last appearance in the Octagon came in November 2016 against Eddie Alvarez for the UFC lightweight title.
McGregor, who was already UFC’s featherweight champion, won that bout to become the first UFC fighter to hold two belts simultaneously. The company eventually stripped him of both belts for inactivity, though, with his only fight after that an August 2017 boxing match he lost to Floyd Mayweather.
Despite the layoff, McGregor has lost none of the swagger that, along with his fighting skills, has won him so much fame. “I am coming to put a hole in this man’s skull,” he said Thursday of Nurmagomedov. “Dig my knuckle into his orbital bone and that’s what I’m going to do.”
“I plan on knocking that man’s nose right into the nosebleeds,” McGregor added. “That’s what’s going to happen Saturday night.”
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