Saturday 17 February 2018

‘I showed up for the fans who saved their hard-earned money’ - Conor McGregor explains why he fought Chad Mendes injured

McGregor in his victorious fight against Chad Mendes in Las Vegas
McGregor in his victorious fight against Chad Mendes in Las Vegas

Tom Rooney

Very few fighters would undertake the biggest contest of their career while carrying a debilitating injury, but that’s precisely what Conor McGregor did at UFC 189.

When considering all the bravado, barbs and bold predictions, McGregor never gave the impression of a man with a heavy burden during the lead up to his ultimately cancelled UFC featherweight title showdown with Jose Aldo.

Even when he was paired with a new opponent just 12 days out from what proved the grandest event in MMA history, the one-liners flowed.

However, when the duo were on the unprecedented world media tour early in the year, the Dubliner sustained a significant knee injury (ACL). This, of course, has been a problem area for him in the past.

With so much at stake, McGregor obviously felt that taking on the greatest featherweight ever in his state was worth the risk. Then, a rib injury saw Aldo withdraw from the bout less than two weeks out, and Chad Mendes was drafted in on short notice.

During a media call yesterday, McGregor was asked whether he had been tempted to pull out after the Brazilian’s omission so he could fully heal up, and not put his career in jeopardy by facing the best wrestler in the division.

“No. Nothing can break me; nothing can stop me from taking over this game. I showed there’s no amount of adversity my mind cannot conquer. I went in with complete belief that my shots would land.

“Fans saved their hard earned money to come and see that show. It was a $7m gate, $50m pay-per- view, and god knows what in sponsorship and merchandise sales throughout the week?

 “If I had walked from that I’d have flushed the company’s money down the toilet, the fans money down the toilet and my own money down the toilet. I showed up and came through for everybody who has put in so much,” he said.

As is well established,  at UFC 189 the 27-year-old defeated Mendes via second round TKO to clinch the interim featherweight crown and now he and Aldo will finally conclude their business on December 12 in Las Vegas at UFC 194.

The Crumlin native gave the distinct impression that the champion, who has not lost in a decade, is of little relevance to him, and is just another stepping stone on his path to complete domination.

“I always hear that with people; ‘I‘ve been training for this guy my whole life.’ Then he goes in and gets his ass handed to him on a plate, because losers focus on winners.

“Winners focus on winning, and losers focus on winners. I focus on winning. I entered that promotion as winner, a two weight world champion, focused on winning.”

Aldo has not fought since October 2014, when Mendes gave him the sternest test of his reign to date. McGregor was sitting cage-side that night and, although initially impressed by what he saw, the SBG man had cause to alter his perspective.

“I tell you what, I looked at that fight, ringside, and though to myself ‘wow, this Chad Mendes hits like an animal; he’s a dangerous, dangerous man.’ And then I went in myself and realised he hits like a bitch and, if anything, it showed me that these people aren’t on my level.

“I came home with a belt last time. Even before I signed with the UFC I was a two-weight world champion, it’s just another fight, another KO, another gold belt.”

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