It has been a tumultuous 24 hours in the world of combat sports less than a week out from the ‘fight of the century’ in Las Vegas in terms of pre-fight altercations and the failed drug test of UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
On Tuesday, both Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor arrived in grand style before their entourages clashed.
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Immediately following a minor altercation, McGregor found himself sidetracked by former WBA welterweight world champion and disgruntled sparring partner Paulie Malignaggi, who had choice words for McGregor after leaving the Irishman’s training camp earlier this month and in a face-to-face verbal showdown 24 hours ago.
Following the presser, Eurosport caught up with the “notorious” one, who claimed he was more focused than ever, thanks in large part to the birth of his son, Conor Jr, in May.
“Fatherhood is such an amazing thing, because it made me just realise what’s important,” McGregor told Eurosport. “If anything, I feel the pressure is off my shoulders even more so.
It’s been beautiful and an eye-opening experience. As a fighter [I’m] a little more ruthless maybe, a little bit more certain and a little bit more dangerous — if I am being honest — because there is another one I am fighting for.
McGregor has been busy brushing off the taunts of Malignaggi before getting down to business with Mayweather.
“Did you bring your b***s, Conor?” asked Malignaggi, who’s working Saturday’s fight as a commentator.
The reigning UFC lightweight champion, who is 21-3 in mixed martial arts with 18 knockouts, quickly responded with “Get over it … you got your ass whipped” referring to the pair’s heated sparring sessions before the two were immediately separated.
Eurosport caught up with Malignaggi’s fellow fight commentator Mauro Ranallo, who also questioned McGregor’s focus despite complimenting the 29-year-old’s perfectly planned career to date.
“I do believe emotions have been ramped up and tempers are beginning to rise,” Ranallo told Eurosport prior to the final press conference at the KA Theatre inside the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino.
I’m not a psychologist, nor do I play one on TV, but with Conor McGregor’s entrance yesterday and getting into it with some of the fans and, of course, my Showtime Championship Boxing colleague Paulie Malignaggi, you wonder where his head space is right now?
“I’ve got to give Conor McGregor all the respect in the world, because I’ve yet to meet someone with that amount of self-belief.”
When asked about McGregor’s chances against, Ranallo was hesitant to give a prediction, but admitted it would be a talk task to tarnish Mayweather’s unblemished record.
I just wonder if it is going to materialise on Saturday night, because again you are looking at a neophyte, 0-0 in boxing against one of the greatest defensive fighters of all time — best boxer of his generation — 49-0, and despite being out for almost two years and at the age of 40, Floyd Mayweather is a boxing prodigy. It would be the greatest upset in the history of sports.
But McGregor entered the final pre-fight press conference calm, cool and collected in front of a horde of national and international media present on Wednesday.
“Done a lot of these press conferences, and this one is a lot more subdued, business-like, the way I like it — sometimes,” opened McGregor. “We are prepared for 12 3-minute rounds of non-stop pace.
I will go forward and I will put the pressure on and break this old man, trust me on that.
McGregor also acknowledged the change in glove weight from 10 ounces to 8 could make a critical difference in the outcome for the 40-year-old American boxing champion, who has held a world title in five weight divisions and is looking to break Rocky Marciano’s undefeated record of 49-0 to become the most successful boxer of all time.
“[Mayweather] made a big, big error in my opinion [agreeing to 8-ounce gloves],” claimed McGregor, who recently said he has been eyeing this fight since an early age. “I don’t see him lasting two rounds. I feel I will have the decision to end it inside one.”
One person firmly in McGregor’s corner is UFC president Dana White, who was on hand wearing a ‘Team McGregor’ t-shirt and happily talking with media despite the discouraging news surrounding recently recrowned UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones’s failed drug test — the second of his career — dampening the festivities.
“Conor is the guy for this job,” said White in the pre-press conference media scrum.
I call him the unicorn. I’ve never dealt with anybody like this guy. When he is under the most pressure, he shines the most.
White said that should McGregor win on Saturday, the media should expect a volley of “excuses” following the fight from those slamming the MMA star’s chances.
“For all the people that say he doesn’t belong here and this fight is ridiculous, when he knocks Floyd Mayweather out on Saturday, what are these naysayers gonna say,” he said. “They will say ‘Floyd was too old’ and a whole other set of excuses.
“Remember, I told you that.”
From Aaron S. Lee in Las Vegas on Twitter @aronshanelee
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