TGIFighting: Conor McGregor’s UFC 264 Presser Was a Rollicking Return to Form

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Conor McGregorChris Unger/Getty Images

Welcome back to TGIFighting, where every Friday we talk to top fighters, preview the weekend’s combat sports action and make wry observations about the relevant MMA news of the day. Ready? Let’s proceed.

Back in January, while hyping the second leg of what would become his trilogy of fights with Dustin Poirier, Conor McGregor tried something different. He donned the proverbial white hat, laying aside his trademark needle-sharp trash talk in favor of a more respectful tone.

Then Poirier knocked him out.

As their Saturday rubber match approaches, the black hat is back in place. 

From the moment he stepped onstage wearing dark sunglasses for a Thursday night press conference in advance of their main event at UFC 264 in Las Vegas, McGregor (22-5) was out to get inside the head of Poirier (27-6 1 NC) and anyone else who could see or hear him. (Warning: language NSFW)

“I don’t give a f–k about him, to be honest,” McGregor said of Poirier. “I don’t give a rat’s ass about him. He’s Buster Douglas! He’s Buster Douglas, is what he is. He’s gonna be known for that: a fluke win, and I’m gonna correct it on Saturday night.”

When former NFL wide receiver, boxer and noted MMA fan Chad Johnson appeared at the media microphone to ask if McGregor considered himself a lock, the answer came quickly: “I’m gonna kill this man.”

Arash Markazi @ArashMarkazi

Chad Ochocinco with a question for Conor McGregor: https://t.co/GHjjfoDCpW

Poirier, knowing full well that no one stands much of a chance trading words with McGregor, quietly absorbed the barbs with as much equanimity as he could muster, though he did get a few of his own licks in.

“To me, he’s lost that aura,” Poirier quietly declared. “It’s just business. All I see is a man here, a man who needs to get crazy.”

It’s a fair point. At 32 years old, McGregor is 22-5 overall but just 3-3 in his six most recent contests, lightly scattered over the past five years. If he drops this rubber match with Poirier, he’ll have to stand by as the Diamond lands a late-year blockbuster with current lightweight champ Charles Oliveira (31-8 1 NC), one that’s already penciled in for Saturday’s winner on many observers’ calendars.

Although McGregor is the biggest star in MMA history and will continue to print money no matter what happens Saturday, a loss would likely mean the end of his days as a serious UFC title challenger, at least until he “banks” a few more wins.

In his own way, McGregor addressed that issue Thursday. First, by vigorously and profanely shouting down a reporter who asked him about that recent record—accurately pointing out that McGregor has precisely one win on his record since the end of the Obama administration—and second by indicating he’s tried to get back to basics, or at least whatever passes for basics in McGregor world.

“My mindset is hard hat on and two hammers in me hands,” McGregor said. “That’s my mindset. I’m not relishing in all me past accomplishments, all the money I’ve got in me bank, all the Forbes accomplishments, I don’t care about that. I’m back on the building site with two hammers in me f–kin hands.” 

It’s possible that part of the back-to-basics approach was reflected in Thursday’s presser and the classic McGregor mind games therein. Even before Poirier hit the stage, McGregor was snapping up bottles of his opponent’s branded hot sauce that graced the tables. During a quick early faceoff, McGregor threw a flailing kick in Poirier’s general direction. You get the idea.

MMA Junkie @MMAjunkie

Fair or foul? Conor McGregor tried to kick Dustin Poirier during the first fight week faceoff.

#UFC264 | Full video: https://t.co/ezfu0uz2pr https://t.co/soVXyvGrjL

“He’s not in the same stratosphere as me,” McGregor said as he gazed over at Poirier through those massive sunglasses. “The man looks disgraceful up here. He looks frail. He looks frail at this weight now, I’m telling you. His head, his body, his frame, his eyes. The cut is getting to him. I’m on weight and ready to go. … He’s getting took here.” 

That’s get-in-your-opponent’s-head 101, and that’s a master quote from a master craftsman (Poirier has had his share of weight-cutting troubles in the past). When discussing his approach to fighting, he may as well have been discussing his approach to trash talk.

“This is my bread and butter,” McGregor said. “This is what wakes me up in the morning with fire in my belly: errors to correct, tactics to prepare for. So I’ve had a great camp, a great focus on my opponent’s skills.” 

Dustin Poirier (second from left) and McGregor

Dustin Poirier (second from left) and McGregorJohn Locher/Associated Press

Among other items, McGregor took the time to predict he’d be a billionaire by age 35 and that a trilogy fight with Nate Diaz (21-13) “is for sure gonna happen.”

As for the trilogy fight in front of him, he predicted he’d set a new high-water mark for his own career. That had to be music to the ears of UFC President Dana White, who will likely be hoping for and perhaps expecting record pay-per-view numbers for UFC 264.

“[UFC 205 in 2016] was the single greatest performance in UFC history, widely regarded,” McGregor said. “[That was] the night I won the second world title in Madison Square Garden. With this performance on Saturday night, I’m gonna top it. … Another feather to the cap. It’s what I love to do. I love to come in here and defy the odds, do the unthinkable and put on a show.”

Oh, and if you want to know whether he has learned to check leg kicks? Looks like you’ll have to pony up on Saturday.

      

Stone Cold Lead Pipe Lock of the Week 

Record to date: 13-4

It’s all McGregor-Poirier all the time here at TGIFighting this week, with one exception. We wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we didn’t point out the easiest of easy money at UFC 264. For all you conservative and/or lazy and/or unskilled bettors out there like me.

It pains me to say it, and it pains us all to see it, but the great Carlos Condit (32-13) is running on fumes. Yes, he’s won two straight, but that was only after a string of five consecutive defeats. His opponent in Saturday’s prelims, Max “Pain” Griffin (17-8), has a two-fight win streak of his own and appears to be putting it all together.

Griffin is a power striker with solid wrestling, and while he’s been inconsistent at times, that problem should take care of itself Saturday in the kind of showcase bout that every fighter dreams of. Condit has the same sky-high fight IQ he’s always had, and he’ll make it competitive, but he no longer has the legs to run with the fresher fighters. DraftKings has Pain as a -190 (bet $190 to win $100) favorite. Lock it in.

     

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