A late arrival, an early exit and then bedlam.
A news conference starring Saturday’s UFC main-event fighters Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz erupted into a bottle-throwing, expletive-filled melee Wednesday, further fueling their already tense rematch.
UFC President Dana White, angered at the start of the session by McGregor’s late arrival, pulled the plug on the gathering after Diaz and his entourage exited MGM Grand’s David Copperfield Theater with middle fingers raised and objects sent flying in McGregor’s direction.
One of the thrown objects was a heavy roll of black tape that struck McGregor’s girlfriend, Dee Devlin, on the right arm. While she recovered, a bottle of San Pellegrino whizzed by the heads of those nearby.
McGregor was visibly upset and had to be restrained from going after the Diaz group, a Stockton-based gathering dressed in black T-shirts with the phrase “Represent,” which included UFC fighters Gilbert Melendez and Jake Shields.
After Diaz’s exit, casino security and Las Vegas police sought to calm riled fans as McGregor barked “get … out,” to his Saturday night opponent. There were no arrests.
“Sorry guys, see you Saturday,” White said to close the news conference for the anticipated rematch to a UFC 196 card that was the company’s most lucrative pay-per-view event.
McGregor (19-3), the UFC’s featherweight champion, was scheduled in March to fight then-champion Rafael dos Anjos, who injured his foot in training. On short notice McGregor agreed to a 170-pound replacement welterweight bout against Diaz and the favorite McGregor lost by second-round submission.
McGregor, who is Irish, called Wednesday’s episode “handbags,” a slang term in his country meaning a pointless argument akin to two old ladies fighting with purses.
“If you want to fight, let’s fight,” McGregor said. “We were like, you want to throw bottles? We’ll throw hands.”
The McGregor-Diaz rematch was originally scheduled for July. But it was postponed when McGregor rejected appearing at a news conference and marketing duties to hype that event, remaining in Europe to train.
So White didn’t mask his resentment at McGregor appearing late Wednesday, starting the news conference without him.
“He has to start respecting people’s time, man,” White told reporters. “Yours, theirs, mine …. If it’s over before he gets here, it’s over.”
Diaz added, “It’s rude.”
“I’m a mixed martial artist — kicking, grappling, everything — it’s a mixed martial arts fight,” Diaz said. “When we get in there, we’ll see what happens.”
After the news conference, McGregor said he’s better prepared this time to handle the weight gain and has sparred with mid-dleweights in an effort to improve his durability and strengthen his punches.
“I see me cutting up his soft skin and I see the referee stopping the fight,” McGregor said. “Wherever it goes, I will dominate him.”
With Thursday workouts and Friday’s weigh-in to come, McGregor and Diaz’s paths will cross again before the fight.
“I’m good,” McGregor said. “I have a fight Saturday night, so I get to punch him in the face.”