Conor McGregor vowed to “show who the king is” as he prepares for his UFC comeback against Russia’s Khabib Nurmagomedov in Las Vegas on Saturday.
The 30-year-old Irishman will return to the Octagon for the first time in almost two years at UFC 229.
Lightweight champion Nurmagomedov is unbeaten in 26 fights and has the longest undefeated run in MMA history.
McGregor, who arrived late to the Thursday’s news conference, said: “I’m here to enjoy it.”
“Khabib is petrified. I want him to show up for the fight,” he added.
McGregor’s last appearance in UFC came in November 2016 when he beat Eddie Alvarez to add the lightweight belt to his featherweight title.
He was later stripped of both titles because of inactivity, with Nurmagomedov being installed as lightweight champion earlier this year – a decision that will never lie well with McGregor.
“My heart is black towards this man” he said.
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‘I don’t know where the little fool is’
McGregor is a man who likes to do what he wants, when he wants – blaming the “heavy traffic” for him turning up 26 minutes late for the news conference.
“There must be a McGregor fight going on,” he said, taking to the stage alone after Nurmagomedov had walked out 10 minutes earlier, criticising his opponent’s “disrespect”.
As only McGregor can, he swaggered into the spotlight with his favourite accessory – a bottle of his own whiskey – in his hand.
Nurmagomedov had refused to allow the news conference to be delayed and instead started it at 23:00 BST on the dot, before departing after 15 minutes, leaving UFC president Dana White centre stage, sweating on the star attraction’s arrival.
“Khabib knew what he signed up for. I don’t know where the little fool is,” McGregor added when he finally arrived.
The Irishman, who last fought Floyd Mayweather in a boxing bout last year,revealed he expects to make about $50m (£38m) from the fight and predicted he will be a billionaire by the time he turns 35.
“You’ll never beat the Irish,” he said. “I’m looking forward to making everyone proud on Saturday night.
“From the bottom of my heart, it’s good to be back.”
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‘If you can’t aim for peace, aim between the eyes’
McGregor and Nurmagomedov have clashed ever since the former’s vacated lightweight belt was awarded to the Russian, with the Irishman sentenced to community service in July after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct over an incident in April after a UFC media day.
It occurred after an alleged confrontation between Nurmagomedov and McGregor’s friend Artem Lobov, with the Irishman throwing a metal dolly into the window of a bus carrying fighters, including the Russian.
In Thursday’s news conference, Nurmagomedov vowed that the weekend’s fight was now “personal”, adding that all questions “would be answered on Saturday”.
“Conor can say what he wants. Nobody cares about him. When we go to the cage, we’ll see who can talk,” he said.
“For me, this is more than defending my title. For me, it’s personal. This is the biggest fight in UFC history and we’re going to break numbers, but for me, this is personal.”
Both McGregor and Nurmagomedov said they would not shake the other’s hand after the fight, with McGregor adding “there would never be peace”.
“It’s deeper than just a fight on Saturday night,” he said. “If you can’t aim for peace, aim between the eyes. This is never over.
“I’m starving for this man’s head. I am going to eat him alive. There is no one hungrier than me in this game.”
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How did we get here?
- September 2015 – McGregor beats Jose Aldo to win the UFC featherweight belt
- September 2016 – McGregor beats Eddie Alvarez to win the UFC lightweight belt
- November 2016 – McGregor is stripped of his featherweight title due to inactivity in the division
- August 2017 – During his break from MMA, McGregor takes part in a boxing match with Floyd Mayweather, which ends in a 10th round victory by knockout for Mayweather
- April 2018 – McGregor is stripped of his lightweight title due to inactivity in the division, and it is awarded to Khabib Nurmagomedov
- April 2018 – McGregor is involved in an incident at the Barclays Center in New York after a UFC media day, throwing a metal dolly into the window of a bus carrying fighters including Nurmagomedov after the Russian had been involved in an alleged confrontation with one of McGregor’s friends
- July 2018 – McGregor is sentenced to five days of community service in the US after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct
- August 2018 – It is announced McGregor will return to MMA to challenge Nurmagomedov for the UFC lightweight belt