Conor McGregor watched his countryman Michael Conlan dominate his professional boxing debut Friday night inside a festive Madison Square Garden on St. Patrick's Day night, then got caught up in the frenzy himself.
Approaching the front row of seating for boxing reporters, the charismatic McGregor roared, "I'm the boxing guy. Watch me take over boxing. Trust me on that."
McGregor, who has been engaged in a public back-and-forth with unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr. (49-0) for a possible super-fight between the top pound-for-pound fighters in boxing and the UFC, said, "Nobody in this boxing game knows what's coming.
"When I step in there, I'm going to shock the whole … world. Twenty eight years of age, confident as a mother, long, rangy, dangerous with every hand. I'm going to stop Floyd and you're all going to eat your words.
"The whole world is going to eat their words."
Asked when the fight is going to happen, McGregor said, "You'll hear about it.
"I am boxing!"
McGregor then stormed off, retreating to a backstage meeting with Conlan, who stopped Timothy Ibarra 59 seconds into the third round with a combination of punches.
After walking behind Conlan into the ring while draped in an Irish flag, McGregor was animated while watching the fight standing next to press row, barking instructions to Conlan like, "Jab the body, then jab the head."
McGregor spoke exclusively to The Times as he exited Madison Square Garden and said, "I'm ready to box. I've been ready for a long time. The game's going to be in shock when I step in the ring. Trust me on that."
He said advising Conlan during the fight was proof of his comfort in boxing's finer points.
"You're … right, I know what I was doing," he said. "Listen, man, I've been doing this my whole life."
He said basking in the boxing crowd's adulation was a thrill.
"It ain't the boxing crowd. It ain't the MMA crowd. It's the Irish fighting crowd and they … love this."
McGregor said he's aiming for a September fight date against Mayweather. McGregor is awaiting the birth of his first child, a son, with a due date in eight weeks, he said.
"[September] is what I'm thinking. That's what the word is. That's what we're close to doing.
"I've tried to talk to Floyd. I flew to Las Vegas to have talks with Floyd and then he retired. He just doesn't want to see me. He's petrified. Wouldn't you be? No one knows what to expect with me, and they shouldn't.
"Because I don't know what to expect either."
Earlier Friday, Alex Saucedo, a Wild Card West product trained by Gennady Golovkin's cornerman Abel Sanchez, knocked down Michigan's Johnny Garcia in the first round and then finished him with a combination in the second.
Super-lightweight Saucedo (24-0, 15 KOs) produced what Sanchez wanted, asserting his power punching to overwhelm Garcia (19-4-1) at the 2:42 mark, thrilling his manager, Hollywood director Peter Berg.
"He's an A-minus fighter right now. He needs two or three more fights," Sanchez said. "Our objective was to keep him in a good fighting stance. That way, he's throwing punches from a strong position, can move his head better.…"
Florida lightweight Teofimo Lopez Jr. (3-0, three KOs) continued his ascent with a second-round knockout on a body shot to Mexico's Daniel Bastien.
Lopez, a 2015 Golden Gloves winner, boldly said he believes he's a once-in-a-generation fighter. He's sparred with the likes of Shawn Porter, Gulliermo Rigondeaux and Amir Imam.
"That's why I make it look easy," Lopez said. "I'm here to do what I have to do and to look good when I'm doing it."
Lopez said he's scheduled to fight again April 21 in Florida.
Brazilian super-featherweight and 2016 Olympic gold-medalist Robson Conceicao (3-0, two KOs) made short work of replacement opponent Aaron Hollis, finishing him with a flurry of blows against the ropes 36 seconds into the second round.