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Is Chad Mendes finally getting into Conor McGregor’s head?
McGregor is a master at mind games, but Mendes used the final press conference for the UFC 189 main event to take a poke at his opponent’s alleged weight issues before their interim featherweight title fight Saturday night.
For the second time in two days, McGregor was asked about comments made by former UFC fighter Chael Sonnen, who said last week that McGregor told him he was 27 pounds over the 145-pound featherweight limit.
“He looks scrawny,” Mendes told reporters and several hundred fans gathered inside the Ka Theatre at MGM Grand on Thursday. “He’s cutting too much weight.”
McGregor, wearing sunglasses, sat stoically and did not respond to Mendes. But he repeated his denial that weight will not be an issue at Friday’s weigh-in.
“I do not mess around with this game,” McGregor said. “I take this game very, very seriously. That’s why I’ve been out here in the desert for the last 12 weeks with my team. My weight is on point. I will be 145 at the weigh-in and I’ll be an absolute monster inside the Octagon.”
On Wednesday, McGregor said Sonnen must not have heard him correctly when they spoke recently. Sonnen told radio host Jim Rome that McGregor said he weighed 172 pounds just eight days before the fight.
McGregor, however, has never been over the limit for any of his fights. At a public workout this week, he looked trim and fit.
He and Mendes, the division’s No. 1 contender, engaged in a few brief verbal exchanges as they sat on either side of a podium along with several other fighters, including welterweight champion Robbie Lawler and challenger Rory MacDonald.
Mendes dismissed McGregor as a “one-dimensional fighter” and said he was not concerned about McGregor’s reach advantage.
“Every person I’ve ever fought had a reach advantage over me,” Mendes said. “This is nothing new. Most people that Mike Tyson fought had a reach advantage on that guy, too. I’m the type of guy that has the athleticism, I’m explosive; I can close the distance. I’m not afraid of a reach advantage over me. I can put anyone on their back.”
Mendes listed his strengths in a number of areas, including wrestling, where he will likely attempt to win the scheduled five-round fight.
“He’s a one-dimensional fighter,” he said of McGregor. “He’s a stand-up fighter. Bottom line is, he doesn’t have anything else. I’m more well-rounded, I have power, I can put people to sleep on their feet, I can take you down and I can submit you. What else can he do?”
McGregor had a one-line response: “He will do absolutely none of those things. He’s a novice in my eyes. He’s a white belt on the mat.”
Mendes was a two-time All-American wrestler at Cal Poly. He’s expected to try and force the fight to the ground and wear down McGregor.
“He’s going to fade in the final rounds,” Mendes said. “Wrestling makes you tired, and we’re going to test that.”
Michael Martinez is a longtime sports journalist and former staff writer at The New York Times, the San Jose Mercury News and FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @ByMMartinez