Conor McGregor's power move proves UFC is his world, and we're lucky to live in it
McGregor stole the show at Thursday's UFC 205 press conference, even when he wasn't there
NEW YORK -- UFC is Conor McGregor's world, its owners and fighters and fans his play things, and lest you forget it, here was his message to all of us Wednesday: You're mine.
McGregor turned the day's press conference for the biggest fight in UFC history into his own personal power move: He showed up 15 minutes late, and once he arrived, he held the thing hostage in a beautiful, hilarious, arrogance-driven circus that drowned out everyone else other than the world's most fascinating fighter.
New York City itself?
You wait on Conor.
Dana White, the UFC president who built this sport and company into a $4 billion payday and who has repeatedly and strongly insisted McGregor need to respect the sport and other peoples' time?
You stand there and wait on Conor.
Lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez, sitting up there fuming and eventually getting so angry he stormed off the stage?
You wait on Conor, too.
We all wait on Conor.
And you know what? It was worth it. Until McGregor meets his match in the octagon -- and that day comes for all fighters -- he owns the sport outside of it.
Ask White. Few figures have been as critical or successful -- or as domineering -- in building something as magnificently as White did UFC. The fact UFC 205 is happening in New York City is his own personal triumph, but he spent his time in the spotlight of the world's most vibrant city Wednesday having to explain away McGregor's absence with hollow banalities:
"He's coming, he's coming ... He'll be here ... He's in the building. ... He's coming. ... He'll be up here. ... This is great card."
White is right to let his star be the star. McGregor is the franchise, for now, and a good leader lets the franchise take over, even when the franchise makes a point to embarrass the boss. Especially since, long after McGregor has aged and faded and moved on to retirement, White will be there, still steering this thing, still winning.
But, man, it was something to watch McGregor's utter domination of the same UFC president who had only earlier this year barred McGregor from UFC 200 and found out that, yes, this is McGregor's world. White stood at that podium and waited on the guy who is actually in charge.
When McGregor finally did arrive, he danced onto the stage dressed in a white mink coat and red shirt -- gaudy but confident, another "deal with it" moment. Once he noticed Alvarez was gone, he grabbed the belt he hopes to officially own Saturday night and put it next to his own featherweight title.
Apologies in advance for the flurry of swear words about to follow but, again, this is Conor's world. I'm just writing about it.
"Sorry I'm late!" he boomed. "I just don't give a f---!"
Somewhere backstage, Alvarez noticed his opponent had his belt, returned to the press conference and grabbed the belt back; the scuffle got underway from there.
It was great theater. There was a chair sort of thrown, White pushing both guys away, McGregor play acting that he might hit Alvarez with the chair, and a general buzz of adrenaline. That's how these things go. The real takeaway was the continued fact that McGregor was in charge of every nanosecond of that press conference -- when he was there and even when he wasn't.
A few of McGregor's verbal jousts after he finally deigned us with his presence.
On Alvarez insulting Ireland: "Who o gives a f--- what Eddie says? I'm a f------ pimp! Without me, the whole ship sinks!"
On being late and making everyone wait: "I operate on my own time. I operate on my own time, and I'm running early on my time."
On what comes next: "I'll be immortalized after this."
On his prediction for the fight: "I predict I rearrange his face."
Oh, and this exchange ...
Alvarez: "I want an apology for saying [that] about my wife and kids."
McGregor: "Suck these Irish balls!"
McGregor: "These big Irish balls in your face!"
McGregor owned it all: the crowd, the humor, everything.
Alvarez was shaken and, in a way that was never true with Nate Diaz, it certainly looked to me like McGregor had taken up residence in his head. Irishmen screamed and swore and roared, and McGregor reveled in it all.
In the few moments where actual fight talk happened, McGregor pointed out, accurately, that Alvarez has too much of a tendency to get hit and bloodied -- a real problem when you're facing McGregor.
Does McGregor win at 155 pounds on Saturday night and turn the UFC's triumphant first fight in New York into his own two-belt, history-making coronation?And does that overshadow what would normally be a victory lap for an ascending sport boasting three title fights at a crucial turning point that just so happens to be going down at Madison Square Garden?
Sure seems like it. Because McGregor is the best fighter out there and, until someone changes that by crushing him in the octagon in a way that demystifies his hold on the sport, he owns the UFC, its owners, the other fighters, and the rest of us lucky enough to be along for the ride, in need of a distraction from real life, happily lost for a few hours in Conor McGregor's world.
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