LIVE: Watch Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz press conference ahead of UFC 196
CONOR McGREGOR and Nate Diaz got up close and very personal on Thursday as the headline fighters of UFC 196 scuffled on stage in Las Vegas.
A full-blown melee briefly threatened to break out as the pair squared off in the final pre-fight press conference at the MGM Grand.
McGregor had spent much of the gathering goading his veteran rival, painting him as a wounded gazelle who he was ready to devour on Saturday night's pay-per-view bout. As the pair came face to face with UFC supreme Dana White for a photo opportunity, Diaz's outstretched fist brushed McGregor's face. The Dubliner responded by pushing the Californian back with a swing of his arm, which sparked both camps to storm the stage before order was eventually restored.
"I'm going to toy with the young boy, I'm going to play with him," said McGregor earlier. "He's very very predictable. I think the speed, people gave Jose [Aldo, McGregor's last vanquished opponent] the speed advantage but that was a mistake.
"He's heavy on his right foot but now he's like an injured gazelle. He has a soft flappy body. Man up and be yourself. You're like a gazelle bunched up together and hoping you get spared. Your little gazelle friends are going to look through the cage at you getting eaten alive and they're going to say 'we're never going to cross this river again'."
Diaz's elder brother and fellow octagon veteran Nick was among those to storm the stage as things got heated. McGregor accused his younger sibling of trying to shift the spotlight away from himself as fight night approaches.
"He's talked a lot. There's been subtle digs. But now as the fight approaches he's like a little boy," he said of Diaz, who took the fight on just 11 days notice when Rafael Dos Anjos pulled out of the original headline bout. "He's trying to pass the limelight - to his brother, to his teammates... That's what a man does when he's scared, he tries to pass it on. Let's see what he's got.
"Skill-wise I made a big big jump from [Chad] Mendes to Aldo, I felt technical wise [I was better] but I didn't get to show a lot of that because the fight was over so quick," he added of his 13-second KO of the Brazilian here in December. "So part of me does want to stretch it out. I hope Nate can last. He's never been KO'd, he's been TKO'd. I hope he can last but I can't hold my breath. When I come out spinning they become panic grapplers.
"There's a lot of people that play it safe in the game," McGregor continued, after being asked about Dos Anjos' late withdrawal with a broken foot. "I think there's many scared pussies in the fight game. They don't take risks and people who don't will never climb to that level. I take risk every time. People pull out of fights and the other opponent scraps it, sitting in their houses, only thinking he of theirselves and not the fans who have saved up for [the event]."
For his part Diaz had again taken aim at McGregor's preparations and particularly his support team, apparently referencing his movement guru Ido Portal, another who rushed the stage when things got physical later on.
"You're playing touch butt with that dork in the park, with the ponytail," jibed Diaz, a veteran trash talker who has gone toe to toe with McGregor in the often infantile war of words. "My whole team will beat your whole team's ass. Look at my last 20 fights compared to his fights."