Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov came face to face for the first time in the run-up to their UFC 229 showdown in an explosive press conference.
The Irishman took swings from his own brand ‘Proper No. 12’ whiskey as he unleashed expletive-laden tirades at his Russian opponent at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.
‘The Notorious’ delivered his customary verbal onslaught, with most of his barbs focused on the bus attack this April, an incident for which he plead guilty and avoided jail time.
‘If you’d have got off that bus you’d be dead now and I’d be in a cell,’ he exclaimed. ‘When the person you were looking for turned up, you took a s*** on the back of a bus. He would have been in a box and I would have been in a cell.
Conor McGregor (right) and Khabib Nurmagomedov (left) conducted a remarkable press conference, chaired by UFC president Dana White (centre)
McGregor intermittently promoted his ‘Proper No.12’ whiskey during the event in New York
‘I come here to smash this guy. Did you not see me outside the bus, I showed you my hands, no weapons, step off the bus, you talk the big game, now you’re here, he cowered behind women,’ he taunted.
Nurmagomedov and a number of UFC fighters remained on the bus in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center when McGregor threw a metal dolly through the window, injuring fellow combatants Michael Chiesa and Ray Borg. The dispute was sparked when the Russian and his team confronted McGregor’s team-mate Artem Lobov, prompting the ‘Notorious’ to fly to New York.
Five months later, McGregor dominated the entirety of the press conference on Thursday night, an event which took place without supporters allowed in, much to his chagrin.
The former two-weight UFC champion intermittently threw abuse Nurmagomedov’s way before breaking off to promote his whiskey over a manic, loosely controlled 30 minutes.
For the most part his undefeated foe remained composed in the face of McGregor’s showmanship, although at one point he remarked: ‘Your grappling is zero, your wrestling is zero.’
McGregor’s replied: ‘You’ll be wrestling my knuckle out of your orbital bone.’
The Irishman was his typical brash, engaging self as he relished taking centre stage
When asked about his motivation to continue fighting in this, the most unforgiving of sports, the Dubliner declared it was for legacy and the pure love of it, a distinct difference to his previous fixation with money and pay-per-view numbers.
‘I came back to shut this man up, a little rat, little weasel, who grows in groups. On the bus he s*** his jocks and that’s it, I came back for the love of fighting and war.
‘I began to fight because I loved it, I am set for life. I am here to enjoy this, I’m going to love putting you out your misery and stomping on your head. You just show up and we’ll do it the noble way. Pull out and you know what’s going to happen back home kid,’ the 30-year-old threatened.
‘I’m going to to put a beating on him and his glass jaw. He bought t-shirts to support my cause, a fanboy.’
‘I don’t give a f*** what he’ll try and do, would you believe he is 26-0? He’s fought nobody, I’ll pick him apart and bully him in there.’
Nurmagomedov was subjected to around half-an-hour of McGregor’s verbal onslaught
The Dagestani looked relaxed for the most part and allowed McGregor to say his piece
McGregor hasn’t stepped into the octagon for two years having taken a break for the hugely lucrative boxing match against Floyd Mayweather Jr in August 2017.
But he seemed to be relishing the return to centre stage and was almost beside himself at the prospect of returning to action on October 6 in Las Vegas. On more than one occasion he left his seat and was blocked by Dana White, even offering a glass of whiskey to the Dagestani, who is Muslim and flatly declined.
Many believe Nurmagomedov, who is 26-0 in his professional career, will provide the perfect formula to break down McGregor given his sensational wrestling pedigree.
Unsurprisingly the Irishman gave no credence to that suggestion: ‘I have been coached very well, we are ready for war, we are ready for all scenarios, supreme confidence, we’re going to go out to enjoy it. I don’t have to do this.
Nurmagomedov came face to face with McGregor at the end but kept his cool well
‘It was a great boxing match against Mayweather, 30 minutes that fight was, I learned things of course, I was happy with the experience as a whole, you’ll see on October 6.
‘My prediction is domination, his head will bounce off the canvas. I believe it will take one round, I know a glass jaw when I see one. If you’re afraid of a smack, then a smack off me will feel like a double barreled shot gun. I’ll shatter him like that glass shattered.’
The stage has been set for this to smash all UFC records as the biggest event in the organisation’s history.
Around half a million viewers tuned in online to watch the press conference alone. On October 6, the world will be watching to see if McGregor can deliver on his violent promises, or his softly spoken foe can spoil the Irish party.