Thursday 20 September 2018

Conor McGregor: I don't believe Aldo ever had any intention of fighting me

Conor McGregor accused Jose Aldo of being 'scared for his life' after the Brazilian withdrew from his scheduled UFC title defence against the Dubliner
Conor McGregor accused Jose Aldo of being 'scared for his life' after the Brazilian withdrew from his scheduled UFC title defence against the Dubliner

It was supposed to be the biggest fight of the year, the biggest fight in the history of the featherweight division even.

Thanks to an overzealous sparring session in Brazil, UFC 189 has been robbed of Aldo v McGregor. Incredibly what we’ll have in its place, McGregor v Chad Mendes for the interim featherweight title, may be a better contest.

On Wednesday night UFC held a conference call with the title fighters from the UFC 189 main card, namely Conor McGregor, Chad Mendes, Rory MacDonald and Robbie Lawler. As has become normal on these calls Conor fielded most of the questions.

Having withdrawn from previous title fights the UFC were taking no chances and lined up Chad Mendes as soon as word circulated that Aldo was injured. From the first time they met, McGregor believed Aldo had no intention of ever fighting – “When you look into a man's eyes, you can see straight into his soul. And the first time when I looked into his eyes, I knew Aldo didn't want it. I said to myself ‘this motherf****r doesn’t want to be here’.

If Aldo is the saboteur in the plot, Mendes is close to something of a saviour. He explained that within 24 hours of the announcement Aldo was injured he was in Las Vegas meeting with the UFC officials.

It seems both men expected to face each other sooner or later. Mendes commented “I've been preparing for Conor since the first time I saw him in the UFC. This is a guy I knew was going to talk his way to the top.”

An incident on BT Sports added fuel to the fire. During a studio appearance by McGregor, Mendes was streamed into the studio for some verbal sparring. During a discussion on height, Conor maintained Mendes was so small ‘I could rest my balls on your head’. Mendes admits the "balls on your head" comment made it personal - 'You don't f**king do that' said the Team Alpha Male contender.

For McGregor, its academic in what order he fights his opponents – “I came in and told them I was going to destroy everyone in the division… It doesn’t matter if it’s Jose first or Chad first, they’re all gonna get it.”

McGregor almost showed a little sympathy for Aldo – “It’s something I expected but I don’t blame the man. I was going to f**king butcher him. Rip him limb from limb.” While he would welcome a fight with Aldo, The Notorious is unsure if the two will fight in the future – “If he man’s up we should most certainly get it on. I don’t know if he’ll be back, he’s gone running. I don’t think he’ll be back.”

This is the fifth time Aldo has pulled out from a title fight. At UFC 125 an injury ruled him out of his first official UFC title defence against Josh Grispi. He was again injured for his proposed UFC 149 fight with Eric Koch. This was rescheduled for UFC 153 only for Koch to get injured and Frankie Edgar to step in. However, a motorbike accident put Aldo out. A shoulder injury nixed the UFC 176 fight with Mendes and now damaged ribs have side-lined him for UFC 189.

McGregor was apparently the favourite in the betting lines against Jose Aldo but Chad Mendes has emerged as the favourite in the new interim title fight. For many Mendes wrestling will ask stiffer questions of The Notorious’ MMA game than Jose Aldo’s striking might have.

The wrestling ability of European fighters is always questioned once they reached the UFC. Conor explained that he has been with his current wrestling coach, Moldovan Sergey Pikulskiy, since he was 15. Pikulskiy represented his country in Greco Roman and freestyle competition. He feels confident he won’t just have an advantage over Mendes in the striking – “I am very confident that if we exchange in any grappling sequence, I am going to dominate him.”

It was also announced yesterday that the UFC would be returning to Ireland on October 24th in the 3 Arena. Conor was naturally asked would he like to defend the title in Ireland if he wins? Of course – “You don’t hold a show in my home town and not have me on it.”

He may not get his way though. McGregor also mentioned that UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta is against the idea of Conor fighting in Ireland again, preferring to utilise him on the more lucrative Pay Per View events held in the US.

Conor was also asked would he like to defend the title, if he wins, in a stadium in a country other than Ireland, apparently not – “There’s no one on the roster at the moment that could fill a stadium. But filling a stadium in another country doesn’t interest me. If we’re doing a title fight in a stadium it’s gonna be in my home town.”

Regarding the fight Conor gave his prediction in the style we’ve become accustomed; analytic, provocative and succinct – “I see him gassing early and me butchering his facial structure. His body is disproportionate and that’s why he gasses. His belly is going sucking in hard trying to breath and I’ll still be pressing him hitting with everything I’ve got.”

Though it may seem a little rash making the McGregor fight with Mendes for an interim title it does make sense. For the amount of effort, money and time spent promoting the McGregor fight it would be a huge anti-climax not seeing him in a title fight. Though Aldo is expected to be back in October, as we’ve seen above he has a habit of picking up injuries. Without an interim title in play the ball would be in Aldo’s court. However, with an interim title being contested it will make it easier for the UFC to strip Aldo if he remains on the injured list, as they did with Dominick Cruz.

While all the focus has been on Conor and whoever he’s been matched against, there is another top quality title fight on UFC 189. Rory MacDonald will look to avenge a previous loss and take the welterweight title from champion Robbie Lawler. Though neither man was asked to field too many questions, MacDonald seemed to be on team MCGregor. Normally a quiet guy, Rory has been impressed with Conor’s promotional abilities – “I’ve been really impressed. Conor is good for the sport. He's making us all more money, not just himself. There's more attention on the sport and this PPV.”

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