UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov has been intent not to respond on Conor McGregor’s terms.
So when it came time to participate in Thursday’s UFC 229 news conference, the Russian calculated his foe’s constant tardiness, insisted the event start on time and told fans and reporters goodbye after answering a few questions 14 minutes later, before McGregor ever arrived.
“I don’t think about him. I have schedule. I worry about myself,” Nurmagomedov said. Nurmagomedov (26-0), who fell ill during a weight cut last year and missed a fight, said he needed to get to work on trimming pounds with an 11 a.m. deadline to meet 155 pounds. When he sat up, grabbed his belt, thanked fans and reporters for coming and left, UFC President Dana White said, “This is awkward … .
“This is not how we planned it. Like we talk about with McGregor and the mental warfare … there’s the counter to it. I still can’t wait for the [Friday] weigh-in. I want to see the stare-down. And I can’t wait for the fight.”
Six months after Nurmagomedov didn’t oblige to McGregor’s frenzied request to exit a bus the former two-division champion attacked with a hand truck while pursuing him, it’s clear the champion wants McGregor to know there’s a new boss.
The question that drives interest in Saturday’s pay-per-view main event at T-Mobile Arena is who’ll dictate how things proceed when the octagon door is clasped behind them.
With an estimated crowd of 2,000 inside Park Theater with a formidable security presence, McGregor (21-3) arrived to explain “the traffic is heavy,” and claimed Nurmagomedov “doesn’t want to be around me, doesn’t want to be around these people … I’m here to fight this man. I want him to make weight. I want him to show up Saturday night. I’m knocking that man’s nose straight into the nosebleeds.”
Blessed with a powerful left hand, McGregor, 30, underlined his fighting experience as an effective response to the wrestling skill that makes Nurmagomedov a slight betting favorite in Nevada sports books.
“I can truly see inside that man’s head, and smile,” McGregor said. “I’m going to settle this thing myself.”
He called Nurmagomedov’s manager and close friend, Ali Abdelaziz, a “rat” and other names, and cracked that should he dismiss Nurmagomedov with ease, he’d fight Abdelaziz on the UFC’s Nov. 3 card at Madison Square Garden.
The grudge is so personal to Nurmagomedov, he says there’s “no way” he’ll shake McGregor’s hand after the fight, and McGregor responded, “[Forget] peace. There will never be peace. They always say you should aim for peace. If you can’t aim for peace, aim between the eyes.”