McGregor antics stoke up hostility
Just off Broadway, Conor McGregor took his showmanship to the Big Apple last night with predictable results.
The UFC's most marketable asset brought out some of his greatest hits for the occasion of the organisation's historic first card in New York City, turning up late, thieving his opponent's belt and threatening to turn things physical just 48 hours out from his fight with Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden.
McGregor sauntered in to the final pre-fight press conference at the arena over 20 minutes late, Alvarez having already walked off stage in protest of his opponent's tardiness. He then grabbed his opponent's lightweight title belt - up for grabs in the headline act tomorrow night - and placed it beside his own featherweight hardware.
That brought Alvarez back out on to the stage and sparked a briefly wild stand-off when UFC chief Dana White separated the pair and McGregor grabbed a chair, waving it around and threatening to get into hot water all over again.
"Sorry I'm late, I just don't give a f***. I operate on my own time and I'm running early," McGregor boomed as the Irish hordes packed into Madison Square Garden's Theatre went wild. "I'm fresh, ready to go, I'm going to shut this man up, trust me on that."
The last time McGregor showed up late for a pre-fight press conference all hell broke loose, a mini riot breaking out at the MGM Grand between his camp and Nate Diaz's before their rematch in August.
The Dubliner was hit with a $150,000 fine for that farce but that had clearly not helped him hone his timekeeping skills in the interim.
White took the stage soon after 3pm local time with five of the six headliners joining him in front of the cameras, McGregor's seat left empty.
"Honestly, I'm half Irish," said Philadelphia native Alvarez. "I'm disappointed for the country of Ireland that this is your representative. Where is he?
"I'm prepared to completely destroy Conor McGregor and silence this whole damn crowd."
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.
The 28-year-old, bidding to become the first fighter to hold two titles simultaneously, has savoured his first outing in the Big Apple, mingling with fans outside his Central Park Hotel, while many of the UFC's stars stay closer to Midtown.
The Notorious entourage have been loaned a personalised Rolls Royce for the occasion and McGregor had clearly been hitting up Fifth Avenue, taking the stage looking like a cross between a rap mogul and a court jester in a full-length white fur coat.
"This is Gucci mink. This is what confidence looks like, this is what big Irish balls look like," he roared. "Two Rolls (Royces), the second one came today - one Rolls for each belt.
"I'm in my own spot, they have a spot where they are all staying, and it's empty. The fans are all outside my hotel.
"They're still here with me today and I'm really grateful for that. It keeps me coming back and doing special things. It ran him off the stage before I got here."