Saturday 24 March 2018

'I have never felt so unthreatened' - Eddie Alvarez claims he couldn't be less scared of Conor McGregor

Conor McGregor and Eddie Alvarez face-off
Conor McGregor and Eddie Alvarez face-off

Tom Rooney

While it could all be chalked down to pre-fight gamesmanship, Eddie Alvarez has said that not only is Conor McGregor’s fighting arsenal particularly limited, but that he has also never shared a staredown with a less formidable foe.

Be it boxing or mixed martial arts, many fighters site the first time they come face-to-face with an opponent as the actual beginning of a bout.

Being permitted to stare into his or her eyes, they say, allows them to glean just what sort of stuff their nemesis is made of, and whether or not there are psychological weaknesses to be exploited.

Exactly one week ago, at a UFC 205 promotional press conference in New York, Conor McGregor and Eddie Alvarez squared off for the first time.

While the exchange was brief, it did not lack intensity, but neither man appeared particularly unsettled by the other.

In the past, McGregor has hugely undermined the likes of Dustin Poirier and Jose Aldo in those moments, such is his ability to sniff out even the slightest of vulnerabilities.

Words were exchanged, as they previously had been at the front row of the dais throughout the event, while Dana White nervously kept a pair of the most dangerous unarmed combatants on the planet at a relatively safe distance.

After Alvarez ruthlessly usurped Rafael Dos Anjos as lightweight champion via first round TKO back in July, he said he hoped to get McGregor for his first title defence.

Having taken on some of the best in the sport’s most competitive division, he said, it would be a welcome change to be faced with a far less daunting prospect, namely the Dubliner. ‘An easy fight,’ he called it.

Whether or not Alvarez views McGregor's skills with such little regard, or was simply laying the foundations for a massively lucrative contest, only he knows that.

However, speaking to Ariel Helwani on the MMA Hour yesterday, the Philadelphian claimed that his brief coming together with McGregor couldn’t have been further from disconcerting.

"Usually when square off with a man, my heart rate goes up, I feel something. I never felt so unthreatened by a human being as when I was up on a stage with him. That's the God's honest truth. I've never felt so unthreatened."

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 27: Eddie Alvarez addresses the media during the UFC 205 press conference at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on September 27, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

As he has done in the past, the 32-year-old said that McGregor lacked the type of comprehensive skill set to trouble him, particularly in comparison to the best the lightweight division has to offer.

“They have a well-rounded skill set and even if the fight goes to another realm of MMA, from standing up, to ground, to jiu-jitsu, everyone is tough in each one.”

 "They're well versed, to the point where they can hang with some of the toughest guys in the world in any aspect of the sport. And I don't think (McGregor) can, from what I've seen."

Of course, McGregor gained vengeance for his sole promotional loss by defeating Nate Diaz via majority-decision at UFC 202, in a bout that will surely be a contender for Fight of Year honours.

The victory has returned him to the precipice of making history. Already the featherweight champion, a win over Alvarez will see McGregor become the first fighter in promotional history to concurrently rule over two divisions.

The Crumlin native won widespread praise for the adjustments he made between the first and second fights with Diaz, but Alvarez wasn’t too impressed.

Having clearly won the first two rounds, McGregor found himself under the cosh in the third round, before bouncing back in the fourth and largely keeping Diaz at bay in the fifth.

According to Alvarez, McGregor lacks the endurance to consistently win fights that go beyond the second stanza, while he found watching his rematch with Diaz to be hugely instructive for their showdown at Madison Square Garden on November 12.

"The conditioning aspect is just not a good level of conditioning. The last Nate Diaz fight was a very big eye opener for me.”

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