Chaos erupted at the MGM Grand last night as a pre-fight press conference ahead of Conor McGregor’s UFC 202 rematch with Nate Diaz descended first into farce and then threatened to descend into a full-on riot.
Tensions between McGregor and the UFC had come bubbling back to the surface when the Notorious one turned up over a half hour late for the final pre-fight press conference at the casino’s David Copperfield Theatre.
When he did eventually show, McGregor was midway through answering his second question when Diaz stormed off the stage and made for the exits with his entourage. As they shouted obscenities down at McGregor’s camp sat stage left, the slanging match took a turn for the worse when the camps started to launch water bottles and cans at each other with media caught somewhere in the crossfire and the fans at the back of the arena going wild.
It wasn’t immediately clear if anyone was hurt in the brief exchange but a Las Vegas police officer did confirm that at least one full aluminium can of an energy drink was thrown.
McGregor was restrained by UFC staff as the organisation’s president immediately called a halt to proceedings. Dana White had begun the press conference in surly form when McGregor’s tardiness again clearly irked the sport’s figurehead.
The rematch between Diaz and McGregor was originally scheduled to have taken place last month but McGregor withdrew — and briefly threatened to retire — over disagreements on media duties.
“He has to start respecting people’s time — yours, theirs, David Copperfield’s,” said White. “We’re having a press conference here [with or without him].”
McGregor, coming into this fight on the back of the first defeat of his UFC career, did finally show up around 28 minutes late, immediately insisting he had been incorrectly informed that the conference was to begin at 1.30pm local time, not 1pm.
“I thought it was half one, it was half one. Vegas traffic is heavy this time of year. There must be a McGregor show on. These press conferences have helped shape what it is but also they have almost... they have got me kicked off cards.”
As he began the answer to the next question, those words proved prophetic. Diaz walked off the stage and chaos ensued.
Of course, this is unlikely to leave White and UFC chiefs overly perturbed in the long run. A fight that was struggling to live up to the hype of its first instalment has got all kinds of grist for the mill.
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