Odds: Nurmagomedov -165; McGregor +155
It’s cliché to say it, but it truly feels as if McGregor never left.
A sea of McGregor fans flooded into the Park MGM on Thursday, for his first prefight news conference in the UFC since November 2016. The superstar Irishman showed up about 25 minutes late. His tardiness prompted Nurmagomedov to exit early, in favor of starting his weight cut.
Not that McGregor missed him. When asked whether he might have blown an opportunity to get into his opponent’s head, or whether he already has done so, McGregor responded in form.
“I don’t really care about his mentality or what he’s thinking,” McGregor said. “I do not give a f—. I am ruthless here. I am coming to put a hole in this man’s skull.”
How did McGregor ever find his way into a damn boxing match against Floyd Mayweather last summer? Because of promotional events like Thursday and performances like the one he has promised to deliver Saturday.
MMA hasn’t fallen flat without him, but it’s impossible to overlook the presence he brings. The 155-pound division, which McGregor took control of by defeating Eddie Alvarez in November 2016, has barely moved since he last fought — mostly because of inopportune injuries and weight cutting fiascos.
If he’s back for good, that figures to change. He clearly stated that, should anything happen to Nurmagomedov in the final 48 hours, he’d find someone else to fight at UFC 229 — and after “sparking” Nurmagomedov on Saturday, he might just feel like headlining UFC 231 one month from now at Madison Square Garden.
“It’s another day, setting the bar high and knocking it out of the park,” said McGregor, on the magnitude of his return. “I plan on knocking that man’s nose straight into the nosebleeds.”
Of course, Nurmagomedov will have a chance to have his say Saturday. During Thursday’s news conference, he admitted this bout has become “personal,” referring to it as more than just a fight for the title.
Who would have guessed, McGregor found a way to make his opponent take a fight against him personally. See, it really is as if the man never left.
Andy Gonzalez is a coach at Aces Jiu Jitsu Club. He has earned his purple belt under Professor Mikal Abdullah. Follow Andy on Twitter at @GoGoGonzilla
Andy lives in Austin, Texas with his wife Amanda and their 3 beautiful children. Andy is also the father of a Marine who is honorably serving in the United States Marine Corps.