Conor McGregor: "I'm dressed like El Chapo in his prime"
By Joe Callaghan
Bromances with Jesus. Immigrants being labelled traitors. Warnings of beheadings. Friendly comparisons with El Chapo.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t the latest Republican presidential campaign debate, but the latest instalment of the Conor McGregor show.
Back in Las Vegas tonight, a month removed from his stunning knockout of featherweight icon Jose Aldo Jr, the UFC's main attraction reverted from showstopper to showseller.
Six weeks out from his move up to lightweight to face another Brazilian, champion Rafael Dos Anjos, and potentially become the first fighter in the sport's history to simultaneously hold world titles at two different titles, McGregor was back to his trash-talking best.
Between them the two men who will face off on March 5 spent a combined 79 seconds in the octagon in their most recent fights - a week apart in mid-December. Yesterday at the MGM Grand it took a little longer than that before things got heated as McGregor turned up over 30 minutes late. He soon made up for lost time.
"Jose Aldo is the one true champion of Brazil. We're sending Rafael on a four-day media run throughout Brazil and I have to book him a hotel in his own country," he goaded.
"He ran from the country of Brazil, he didn't trust his own. This guy, in Brazil lingo, is a gringo. That's the truth.
"Why are your kids named Bob and Donald?
"I am just comparing you to a true Brazilian champ that I KO'd just seeing the pride that Jose carried for the country of Brazil. March 5 I will behead [Dos Anjos] and carry his head through the streets of Rio de Janeiro. It will become a national holiday I imagine.
"I see a true champion in Jose. I see a man here who doesn't represent the people of Brazil like he should. He brings the name of the country down and so I will bring the name back up. Viva la Brazil."
Dos Anjos, a veteran of the fight game but one who has never bothered much with fight talk, pointed out McGregor's linguistic faux pas in reaching for Spanish rather than Portuguese. It was at this point that the Dubliner compared himself to the recently recaptured drug lord of Mexico.
"I'm dressed like El Chapo in his prime," he said. I'm running the company like a wise guy in his prime. I am a multi-cultural man."
For his part, Dos Anjos defended his decision to reside outside his homeland. "For me it doesn't make any sense," he said. "The whole world has American dreams, in this country we have people from all parts of the world - Irish, Brazilian... These people don't deserve to be called traitors."
Dos Anjos is a devout Christian and also took issue with McGregor's tongue-in-cheek (you'd hope) insistence last month that having wiped out all comers in the UFC, he could also get the better of Jesus in the cage.
"I think when a guy says something like that he has no respect for anybody," said the Brazilian. "On March 5 he will feel what a single tool in Jesus's hands can do."
McGregor's response? "Me and Jesus are cool. I'm cool with all the gods. Gods recognise gods."
A huge part of the 27-year-old's aura stems from his cannily spot-on predictions of how his fight will pan out. In six weeks time, when another army of Irish supporters will make way for the desert, he expects things to again be short and sweet.
"He is very sloppy, his shot selection very poor, he has a tenseness in his body when he lulls," said the fight game's master of mental warfare.
"He will take some strikes in there very early. He dips, he's like a slower, sloppier, more stuffed version of Jose Aldo. I will guide him on to some strikes and it will be another KO. I'd love to beat the ugly out of him and drag him into the second or third but I feel like I will do him in under one minute."
Here there were still a few minutes for McGregor to touch on some of the other hot topics that always seem to come his way. He again took aim at Floyd Mayweather's recent insinuations of racism in the way UFC's stars are feted as opposed to his own public image.
"I think Floyd needs to learn before he opens his mouth," said McGregor, who yearns to eventually put up the sort of numbers boxing's pound-for-pound king did.
"You don't know anything about me. I am a multi-cultured...young Irishman. It put me in that [racism] bracket. There's people buried in the desert for less than that. He needs to learn what he's talking about."
After the March bout, McGregor is likely to move back down to featherweight to defend that strap at the sport's summer highlight, UFC 200. Frankie Edgar is patiently waiting for that bout but it also means another year will likely pass without the Dublin homecoming that has for so long been mooted for McGregor coming to fruition.
"I mean, I don't know. I do crave my stadium fight in Dublin but I have to just roll with punches," said McGregor.
"It's an operation. There are limitations. They've pulled concerts from the venue previously. It's a risk to do something like that. I will get back to Dublin [eventually]. This is a marathon, not a sprint."
The McGregor show is again off and running.