UFC President Dana White was spot on Tuesday at the Theater at Madison Square Garden when he described the UFC 205 card on November 12 at MSG as “the best overall fight card” in company history, and the raucous crowd in attendance for the event’s kickoff press conference agreed.
Yet despite the presence of 11 of the card’s participants, including five current or former world champions, the stage - not surprisingly - belonged to the 12th fighter in attendance.
“Listen, the Irish, we built this town,” UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor said. “We built this city and now we’re back and now we’re coming to claim what’s ours, so it’s an honor to be here. It’s truly a dream come true.”
It’s as close as the 28-year-old Dubliner came to being humble in the “World’s Most Famous Arena,” which will host the historic first UFC event in New York since the signing of the MMA bill in April. But the crowd ate up McGregor’s boasts and barbs, which were mainly directed at the man he will be fighting in the UFC 205 main event, lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez. His verbal jabs also found their way to Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Jeremy Stephens, who will be fighting Kelvin Gastelum and Frankie Edgar, respectively, in the Big Apple.
Alvarez was the main target, though, as McGregor tried to get into the head of the Philadelphia veteran before attempting to make history by becoming the first fighter in UFC history to hold two titles simultaneously.
As for the aftermath of such a possibility, McGregor already has a plan.
“I’m gonna wrap one on one shoulder, I’m gonna wrap the other on the other shoulder, and they’re gonna need a f**king army to take them belts off me,” he said as the partisan crowd roared.
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Alvarez, 32, who won the 155-pound crown in July by knocking out Rafael dos Anjos, was undaunted by McGregor’s talk or the fans’ boos. That was no shock, given the fact that the “Underground King” came up the hard way, not just in the fight game, but in life, as he grew up in the rough Kensington neighborhood of Philly.
When pressed, he had his own answers for “The Notorious” one.
“He’s got eight minutes of fight in him,” Alvarez said, referring to McGregor’s most recent win, a UFC 202 victory over Nate Diaz in their August rematch. “He quits after eight minutes, every fight.”
In both fights with Diaz, which were contested at 170 pounds, McGregor started out strong. And while he lost the first bout via second-round submission, he held off fatigue in the rematch, as well as a and a late charge from Diaz, to earn the decision and his 20th pro victory.
After the bout, there was talk of McGregor being injured, but he said Tuesday that he is more than ready to go for Nov. 12.
“I came out of that fight fresher than when I came in,” McGregor said. “Look at Nate’s face. He’ll never look the same. I came out brand new. I had a bruised foot.”
Injury or not, McGregor remains fearless when it comes to taking on any challenges presented to him. For all the talk and bluster, he is a true fighter, one who has a very specific prediction for the fight.
“I’ve been whupping that style a long time,” McGregor said of Alvarez. “He’s a stocky wrestler with an overhand, that’s it. He’s chinny. He gets cracked, he gets dropped, it’s happened throughout his career. He’s on his way out. He’s very lucky to be in the position he’s in. One round it would take me to knock him out.”
Alvarez has a different view on that matter.
“You were the easiest opponent that made the most money; that’s why you were picked,” he said. “You ain’t got a shot. You’re gonna have to give up the little boy belt and you’re not gonna get the big boy belt. There is no Santa Claus. He don’t exist.”