Saturday 17 February 2018

'I’m disappointed in the country of Ireland that this is your representative' - Eddie Alvarez takes aim at Conor McGregor

UFC president Dana White separates Conor McGregor and Eddie Alvarez during the UFC 205 press conference at The Theater at Madison Square Garden
UFC president Dana White separates Conor McGregor and Eddie Alvarez during the UFC 205 press conference at The Theater at Madison Square Garden

JOE CALLAGHAN reports from New York City

IN a city that loves a stage show, Conor McGregor turned in his trademark theatrics with aplomb on Thursday afternoon.

Things threatened to get physical two days early as McGregor and UFC 205 rival Eddie Alvarez jostled on stage in the final pre-fight press conference before the pair headline the historic first ever UFC show in New York with a lightweight title clash at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.

Watch McGregor's press conference almost turn ugly below (warning: strong language):

McGregor turned up over 20 minutes late but soon made up for lost time as he grabbed the lightweight belt belonging to the briefly absent Alvarez and placed it in front of him, next to his own featherweight silverware.

The reigning champion had stormed off stage minutes earlier in protest at McGregor's late show. But Alvarez's return sparked wild scenes as he reclaimed his hardware and squared up to McGregor.

UFC chief Dana White was forced to separate the pair and as McGregor retook his seat, Alvarez slid his own chair across the stage behind the Notorious one. McGregor grabbed the steel chair, waved it over his head and threatened to get himself into all sorts of hot water all over again.

The Notorious, hit with a six-figure fine for his antics in a farcical press conference riot with Nate Diaz and his entourage in August, clearly thought the better of it, and after being briefly dragged off stage, sat down and turned to verbal goading and prodding instead.

"Sorry I'm late, I just don't give a f***," McGregor roared as a swelled crowd in the Theatre arena of the Garden went wild, significant chunks of the crowd having flown in from Ireland for the historic card. "I operate on my own time - and I'm running early on my time. I run New York City - I'm a f***ing pimp - and without me, this whole fucking ship sinks."

Alvarez has shown little sign of wilting in the face of the now trademark pre-fight mental attacks sent his way by McGregor. Before the Dubliner had even made it onto the stage, the Philadelphia native gave as good as he got with the Notorious footsoldiers in the crowd.

"I’m prepared to completely destroy Conor McGregor and silence these damn fans," said the 32-year-old. "I’m half Irish. I’m disappointed in the country of Ireland right now that this is your representative."

White, trying to fill the space before McGregor showed up, did his best to brush off the latest tardy arrival by his biggest star, insisting that he was in a "too good a mood" to take action.

As the UFC look to make their first Empire State outing a particularly money-spinning one, White and Co. will lose little sleep over the antics. Fireworks equal hype and hype has thus far equalled pay-per-view buys, especially with McGregor around.

McGregor's eventual arrival sent decibel levels rocketing as he sauntered on stage sporting some fresh purchases from the city's boutiques - a full-length white fur coat, red polo neck and garish red pants

"This is Gucci mink," he said. "This is what confidence looks like, this is what big Irish balls look like.I've got two Rolls [Royces] now, the second one came today, one Rolls for each belt. I've just been driving round having fun - training, shopping, preparing for another contest. It's what I do

"I'm in my own spot, they have a spot where they [other UFC fighters] are all staying, and it's empty. The fans are all outside my hotel."

Asked what it meant seeing so many arrivals from home in the crowd, McGregor heaped praise on his fans.

"They're still here with me today and I'm really grateful for that," he said. "It keeps me coming back and doing special things. [They] ran him off the stage before I got here."

There will, thankfully, be an actual sporting contest at the end of another hectic drumming up of the McGregor hype machine. The Dubliner is firm favourite to make history here on Saturday night and properly claim a second title - becoming the first UFC fighter to achieve the feat in the organisation's history. He's adamant he has the strikes to get the job done early.

"He's damaged goods," McGregor said of his well-travelled opponent. "He's aged, looks a bit gonked. At the end of the day were go in there and fight and the shots will land regardless."

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