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Conor McGregor was 30 minutes late for his first press conference of 2016 at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, but the UFC featherweight champion didn’t take long to warm up when discussing his challenge of lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos in the main event of UFC 197 on March 5.
“2015 was my year,” the Dubliner declared. “2016 will also be my year. Every year is my year.”
“The Notorious” one has been spot on in his predictions thus far, the most spectacular of which resulting in a 13-second knockout of Jose Aldo last December that earned him the undisputed featherweight crown. Now as he attempts to become the first fighter in UFC history to hold two divisional titles simultaneously, he is also looking at a short night this March.
“I feel I will dust Rafael inside one minute,” McGregor said. “He’s a slower, sloppier version of Aldo. He’s like a bum version of Aldo.”
That was the tamest of the Irishman’s jabs, as he took aim at dos Anjos' decision to move his family to the United States, where the 31-year-old Brazilian has resurrected his career.
Currently on a five-fight winning streak that has seen him defeat the likes of Benson Henderson, Nate Diaz, Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone in dominant fashion, the 155-pound titleholder didn’t take kindly to such verbal shots.
“It doesn’t make sense,” dos Anjos said. “The whole world has American dreams. We have Irish, we have Brazilian people here, and these people don’t deserve to be called traitors.”
Dos Anjos plans on saving his biggest response for fight night and not press conferences.
“I’m not a trash talker,” he said. “I respect my opponents. I just talk the truth. On March 5, I will send this guy back home sad and I will keep my belt. I’m going to have a chance to finish the fight in the first round, but I won’t. I’m going to punish him all the way to the third or fourth. I’m gonna make him bleed. He’s going to pay for everything he’s talking about everybody and for all the disrespect he has.”
The woman who delivered the kick heard ‘round the MMA world last November when she removed the 135-pound title from Ronda Rousey’s grasp, former three-division world boxing champion Holm has been through a media whirlwind since her UFC 193 win, but now she’s ready to get back to work.
“This is the opportunity that’s ahead of me and she’s a totally different fighter,” the unbeaten Albuquerque native said of the Tate bout. “It is a huge challenge for me, but that’s the way I like to go. I want to feel like I’m against the best because that brings out the best in me.”
Many believed Holm would jump into an immediate rematch with Rousey, but with the former champion taking some time off before her next bout, Tate eagerly agreed to face Holm, and after winning four straight over Liz Carmouche, Rin Nakai, Sara McMann and Jessica Eye, the 29-year-old is showing the best form of her career.
More on UFC 197: Watch: 2016 Preview Show: Holly Holm | 2016 Preview Show: Conor McGregor | UFC Rankings Report: 2016 preview show | UFC 193 Lookback | McGregor's UFC 194 Backstage Interview | dos Anjos calls out McGregor | Holm & Tate filmed movie together | Gamechangers McGregor, Holm to risk it all | Holm on life after beating Ronda | Fighter Bios: Conor McGregor, Holly Holm, Rafael dos Anjos, Miesha Tate | Sanchez-Miller to be UFC FIGHT PASS featured bout
“Fate has a way of finding itself and I think this is where I was supposed to be,” Tate said. “I’ve been ready to fight for a title for a long time and it made me that much more hungry and appreciate it that much more. I’m more than ready and I’m so excited to throw down at UFC 197.”
“I was open to a rematch with Ronda,” Holm added. “I wanted whatever opportunity was going to come. This may be a more challenging way to go. There’s a lot of pressure and high expectations. Who wants to be a one-hit wonder?”
As for the lack of bad blood between the two UFC 197 co-headliners after Holm had a shoving match with “Rowdy” Ronda at the weigh-in before their bout and Tate engaged in a well-documented feud with the Olympic bronze medalist? That’s just fine.
“It’s just a different feeling leading into this fight,” Tate smiled. “Holly’s a true sportsman, I like this fight and I like this matchup. Holly and I are very friendly. It’s different and it’s nice.”