Dana White stood at the podium in Park Theater alone as Khabib Nurmagomedov had just left after answering questions for 15 minutes. The problem was the media could only ask questions to the unbeaten fighter and White because McGregor wasn’t there yet. So at 3:15 p.m., White, along with a packed theater, waited for Conor McGregor to show up.
“All right, this is awkward,” he said.
The lead up to UFC 229 is a gift that keeps on giving, even if it arrives in a way nobody saw coming. Right when the clock struck 3 p.m., Nurmagomedov walked across the stage at Park Theater in Park MGM Las Vegas to begin the scheduled press conference.
The problem? Nobody else was ready.
“Three p.m., this press conference is beginning,” Nurmagomedov said. “I am not waiting for nobody. Let’s go. If you have questions, I am here.”
White jogged behind the lightweight champion to begin the presser, explaining that there was supposed to be a video played before the press conference began, and McGregor was in a car on his way to the venue.
Khabib walked in right at 3pm, starting the press conference. Conor isn’t here yet.
As if it weren’t any more obvious, Nurmagomedov explained that he wanted to get everything started on time because he is focused on his weight cut, which meant he wanted to stick to his “weight cut day.” But just because he didn’t want to wait for McGregor, it didn’t mean the Russian wasn’t thinking about McGregor.
“For me, this is more than a fight for the title,” he said. “For me it’s personal. Honestly, for me it’s personal.”
The hatred is real.
After answering questions for a quarter of an hour, Nurmagomedov left the stage, calling McGregor’s tardiness a “big disrespect.” That left White to answer questions for a few minutes while everyone waited for McGregor. He expressed his preference for face-offs to take place after the weigh-ins, saying that is “the one I’m interested in.”
Soon enough though, McGregor strutted on stage, Proper 12 Whiskey in hand, to a raucous reception. From there, McGregor did what McGregor does better than anyone in the organization: talk.
“(Nurmagomedov) doesn’t want to be around me,” McGregor said of his opponent’s abrupt arrival and departure. “He doesn’t want to be around these people. He is petrified, and that’s it.”
There hasn’t been any love lost in the build up to October 6 as both fighters expressed their disdain for the other. They could agree on one thing, though- neither fighter said they would shake the other’s hand at the end of the fight.
"IT'S NEVER OVER"
“There will never be peace here,” McGregor said. “I always say you should aim for peace, but if you can’t aim for peace, aim between the eyes, and that’s it. I’m going to aim right between that man’s eyes, and this is never over.”As far as the actual fight, Nurmagomedov said he won’t underestimate the former two-division champion and that McGregor will have to “kill me to stop me.” However, he does have his doubts about him and expects his opponent to fade should the fight stretch into the fourth and fifth rounds.
“All the time, he gets tired, he gives up,” Nurmagomedov said.
And after two years away from the sport, McGregor said he is as ambitious as ever.
“I am starving for this man’s head,” he said. “There is nobody that is hungrier than me in this game.”
White hinted that UFC 229 could eclipse two million pay-per-view buys, which would put the card in special company. He also expressed his opinion that McGregor is the biggest star in all of combat sports.
At the end, McGregor said something on which everybody involved would likely agree:
“Times are good. Let’s enjoy these momentous occasions.”
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Zac Pacleb is a writer and producer for UFC.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ZacPacleb.