Saturday 21 April 2018

You will be fighting a ghost, Conor McGregor tells Jose Aldo

Conor McGregor

Joe Callaghan in Las Vegas

Conor McGregor has said he will ghost his way to glory in Las Vegas on Saturday night by disappearing on Jose Aldo.

A remarkably relaxed McGregor - almost jarringly so - breezed through Wednesday evening's final press conference ahead of his long, long-awaited UFC 194 showdown against the Brazilian pound-for-pound king at the MGM Grand.

In stark contrast to the marathon preamble to this re-arranged fight, there was none of the trash talk, none of the bravado or bragging of previous gatherings. Instead McGregor was cold and clinical - and still so confident. He told Aldo he would be fighting a ghost here in three days when featherweight unification gold is on the line.

"I visualise entering the contest and being unpredictable," the Dubliner said. "I will pressure him, I will evade him, I will strike him with every limb.

"I will be a ghost in there. He will think that I'm there and then I'm not there. He will think that I'm not there and then I'll be there. This will prove my point. I am number one.

"I feel that Jose like many individuals in the game are stuck in their routine, in the same pattern. They exit, enter, hit, grapple the same. It's routine, it's repetition. I feel routine will close off your mind and lock the frame. It is predictable, that's where I feel his weakness lies."

In a break from previous major shows, the UFC held the final press conference in the MGM Grand Garden Arena, the scene of McGregor's finest hour to date, July's stirring off-the-canvas knockout of Chad Mendes that earned him the interim featherweight title. All of the energy of that week was absent on Wednesday however. McGregor instead insisted he was in a peaceful state of mind.

"I am in a state of zen right now," he said, the manic replaced by the mellow. "My mind is calm, composed. I am prepared and happy. This must be close to 15 press conference that I have done without fighting this man. I'm ready. Training at home does something to me. I am here in a moment of zen and I am ready for the fight of my life."

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The opponent that July night was supposed to be Aldo, until a rib injury kept the champion out of the octagon. It was far from the first time the Brazilian missed a title defence but he will nonetheless walk to the octagon on Saturday undefeated for over a decade. The 29-year-old cut an equally calm, confident figure under the lights on Wednesday.

"I don't dwell on what he says. Whatever he says doesn't get through to me. I have faith in my trainers and my team to go in there and get it done," said Aldo.

"If the fight stays on its feet, I'm going to finish it. If it goes to the ground, I'm going to finish it.

McGregor declined to offer admiration for Aldo, saying he has always felt he would come into the UFC and leave all comers in his wake.

"Many people have done many great things in the sport. I have been a fan of the game for so so long. When I first laid eyes on this sport, the one thing I thought then when I was 15, 16 years of age, my thought was "I can beat these people"," he said.

"I always thought I was better. The pound-for-pound [title] is up for grabs here. Like I said, I'm a man with a point to prove. That's what this is, When I make that walk, I am unshackling chains off me. I simply [get in there] and do it as I feel. The closer the fight comes there is no face, my face becomes blank. Back on the world tour I acted in that moment. But now war is on us and I am calm, cold, ruthless."

Mendes, the last man to fight both of Saturday night's rivals, wouldn't be drawn on who will finally come out on top, although he does expect it to be a rip-roaring battle.

"I think both guys are going to cause some issues for each other," said Mendes, who fights Frankie Edgar on Friday night here. "Conor has his long reach, he's a south paw. The one thing I see Aldo having over Conor is the grounding. we'll see what happens mentally when both guys get in there. It's going to be a great fight."

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