Conor McGregor and Khabib talk the talk at fiery press conference

‘I came back for the love of this, to come and shut this man up — a little rat, a little weasel’

Conor McGregor sipped his newly launched whiskey and repeatedly referenced his attack on a bus in April 2018 as he faced-off against Khabib Nurmagomedov for the first time ahead of their fight at UFC229 on October 6th. Video: Reuters

 

If Conor McGregor’s rip-roaring appearance at a news conference at the Radio City Music hall in New York on Thursday proved one thing, it is that the Irishman is still the biggest draw in the sport.

Just 169 days after his career could have been ended after he threw a trolley through a bus window in Brooklyn in a fit of rage, McGregor was back, hammering his opponent Khabib Nurmagomedov in a bid to drum up what will surely be a huge pay-per-view audience for their lightweight title fight in Las Vegas on October 6th.

And if points were awarded for pre-fight press conferences in the same way as they are in rounds, McGregor would already be one up.

“We are ready here. We are ready for war, we are ready for all outcomes, all situations, all scenarios. Supreme confidence, you are looking at here,” McGregor told reporters.

It was a profane, provocative, self-promoting performance containing insults regarding everything from Nurmagomedov’s lack of manliness to the geopolitics of his native Dagestan.

In other words, it was vintage McGregor.

Seven stops on the B train from the Barclays Centre where McGregor lost his cool is the Radio City Music Hall, and it was on that venerable stage that the 30-year-old Dubliner made a reluctant comeback to the UFC publicity machine.

His mouth has undeniably greased the wheels in terms of getting him to the top of the UFC, but the difference between him and the rest of the roster of fighters is that he has almost always delivered on his words.

Lightweight champion Nurmagomedov presents a new puzzle for him to solve, but McGregor brashly proclaimed his intention to win back the lightweight belt he originally secured a few blocks away at the Madison Square Garden in November 2016.

The former two-weight UFC champion hasn’t set foot in an octagon since then, but he’s confident he can neutralize Nurmagomedov, a fearsome wrestler but limited in terms of his striking prowess.

“Your last fight was embarrassing! We were laughing in the Brooklyn lockup!” McGregor roared, taunting Nurmagomedov over his title fight victory of Al Iaquinta back in April.

Asked for his prediction for the fight, McGregor didn’t shy away.

“Domination, his head bouncing off the canvass,” he said.

“He has a glass jaw. My Chechen friends … they told me that they have chicken jaws in Dagestan, and I believe them.”

The chorus of McGregor’s most hard-core fans has always been “sure, he talks trash, but he backs it up” - only in his shock submission loss to Nate Diaz did he fall short of his own predictions.

Much of his success can be attributed to a seemingly insatiable hunger to watch, analyse and learn about fighting, even now that he has it made.

Fellow fighters remember him at an event in the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght when he was only starting out, watching bouts in the cage below from a high vantage point and shadow-boxing as he told anyone within earshot what the fighters below were doing wrong.

When Nurmagomedov was crowned lightweight champion after the Brooklyn bus incident back in April, McGregor was in a New York hotel room doing pretty much doing the same thing - picking apart the Dagestani’s technique and finding the holes in his game that he will look to exploit when they meet in October.

He found a few of those in New York and poked away at them mercilessly. Nurmagomedov will be a different proposition in Las Vegas when the cage door closes, but McGregor might have gained the upper hand in the advance psychological warfare here.

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