McGregor faces veteran Eddie Alvarez tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden with the opportunity to add the lightweight title to the featherweight belt he so unceremoniously stripped from Jose Aldo Jr at the tail end of last year. Such an outcome would make ‘The Notorious’ the first fighter to control two divisional titles simultaneously in the UFC’s history.
He got himself an early taste of what holding two titles will feel like when after arriving 20 minutes late for the get- together, McGregor sauntered on stage in colourful get-up and grabbed Alvarez’s lightweight title from the other side of the dais. The Philadelphia native had walked off stage in protest of the Dubliner’s tardiness but soon returned and things again threatened to move from farcical to physical.
UFC chief Dana White separated the pair as Alvarez took his belt back and McGregor grabbed a steel chair. Having been linked with a cameo in the WWE, it briefly appeared he was going to wheel out one of staged wrestling’s trademark moves. Instead they jostled a while and finally sat down.
“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 the respective camps of McGregor and Nate Diaz 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 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, he did his best to brush off the latest tardy arrival by his biggest star, insisting 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 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 in a full-length white fur coat, red polo neck and garish pants.
“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.”