Showtime VP responds to Conor McGregor's profane rant and accusations
Stephen Espinoza was caught off guard by McGregor blaming Showtime for cutting his microphone
At the peak of Conor McGregor's memorable (and largely obscene) rant during Wednesday's second leg of a four-city international press tour promoting his Aug. 26 boxing match against Floyd Mayweather, the UFC lightweight champion turned his anger onto cable network Showtime.
Just one day after McGregor believed it was Showtime which played a part in cutting his microphone in Los Angeles to allow Mayweather an unimpeded retort, the brash Irishmanin Toronto by backhanding the microphone stand atop the podium and exclaiming "F--- Showtime!"
Despite a press release from Showtime earlier in the day denying it had played a part, McGregor, 28, approached executive vice president and general manager Stephen Espinoza on the stage.
"You little weasel. Look at you, you little weasel. I can see it in your eyes. You're a little f---ing bitch," McGregor said. "Cut my mic off? Cut the champ's mic off? Hell no. You f---ing weasel and you f---ing little bitch. They are trying to set me up at every turn here. They are trying to catch me off guard, trying to see me in uncomfortable positions. But I thrive in uncomfortable positions."
Espinoza did well to field the verbal attack by laughing it off. But he admitted after the press conference that the whole incident caught him off guard. He also wasn't convinced McGregor (21-3 in MMA) was merely playing a character for the camera.
"I'm not sure whether it's part of the show," Espinoza told MMAFighting.com. "I'm not sure how much is a put on. It seemed more than that. It certainly wasn't a wink and a nod. And it wasn't backstage saying, 'Hey, I'm doing it for the good of the show.'
"The reality is you see what some athletes -- whether combat sports or otherwise -- the need to invent enemies and invent opponents to motivate. He's obviously got that in Floyd. If this is part of his process of imagining the world against him and motivating himself, then that's his his process."
Showtime, which broadcasted Mayweather's final six fights on pay-per-view following a landmark 2013 deal that lured the pound-for-pound king away from HBO, will also present the McGregor fight, which takes place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Espinoza ultimately chalked up the McGregor microphone incident, which took place Tuesday at the Staples Center, to technical difficulties.
"No, we definitely did not cut it," Espinoza said. "I'll chalk that up to sort of the first stop flaws. This thing came together rather quickly and the entire format of this thing is to get the two fighters to interact with the fans and with each other. So there were some sound problems -- the cue when Conor came out, it wasn't ready; Floyd's video never played. We've got some of those details ironed out but certainly we had the conversation with him backstage as well."
As far as whether he was put off by McGregor's harsh words, Espinoza insisted he could take it.
"I'm a big boy … It did take me a little bit by surprise, but it's part of the entertainment value of the McGregor business," Espinoza said. "He's a grown adult, I'm a grown adult. If that's the way he wants to conduct himself, we as the network or me personally are not gonna change it. It's one of the things that you appreciate Floyd for. Floyd certainly has his flaws like we all do, but there's always been a sense of professionalism in everything he's done. That isn't always the case with some of his opponents."
Espinoza wouldn't go as far as to say McGregor, 28, was unprofessional. He also didn't rule out a proper retort of his own as the tour rolls on.
"I'd like to sleep on it, but it took me by surprise," he said. "At the end of the day, I'm a big boy and I still got two more opportunities to respond if I need to."
Wednesday's second leg, which was moved to the larger Budweiser Stage outdoor concert venue to accommodate the crowds, was largely deemed a victory for McGregor. This came one day after the 40-year-old Mayweather (49-0, 26 KOs)in terms of his salesmanship to edge out McGregor.
The tour continues in Brooklyn, New York on Thursday before a final stop Friday in London.
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