Fight Club: McGregor fuelled by money and redemption

Alex Rea 16/08/2016
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Nate Diaz chokes Conor McGregor during UFC 196.

Conor McGregor likes money. It’s no secret. It motivates him, feeds his lavish lifestyle and is symbolic of his transcendent talents in and outside the Octagon. Quite simply, green fuels this Emerald Isle idol.

With great pride McGregor speaks of his attainment earlier this year as the first MMA star to enter Forbes’ 100 Highest Paid Athletes list, coming in at No. 85. It’s estimated the UFC featherweight champion raked in $22 million over the last 12 months, the vast majority of which was earned from clashes with Nate Diaz, Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes.

But the divisive Irishman is not content with merely breaking into the prestigious list. No, it’s clear he wants more and he is unapologetic in articulating that. In fact, he has his eyes on the man who sits at No. 1: Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Real Madrid star dropped by McGregor’s training camp in Las Vegas last month as he prepares to walk the path to redemption with a rematch against Diaz at UFC 202 on Saturday. As the pair debated their financial muscle (McGregor’s not the only one who likes money) the UFC standout boldly claimed: “Next year, I’ll get you.”

The consensus has long been Notorious’ future prospects hang in the balance in risky rematch with Diaz that McGregor’s genius self-promotion and precocious skills inside the cage could well see the 28-year-old former plumber earn figures seldom seen in MMA.

Yet, that potential is under serious threat this weekend. Diaz inflicted McGregor’s first Octagon defeat on just 10 days notice at UFC 196 in March. While the clash broke pay-per-view records, it also snapped the myth that McGregor could beat anyone, at any weight, at any time – a key supplement feeding his financial strength.

Now, McGregor is running the risk of tasting consecutive defeats for the first time in his career, were he to lose to Diaz again, it will all but end his pursuit of Ronaldo.

Realistically this re-run can be considered career suicide for the Dublin native because what does victory even achieve? Beat Diaz and the pair are tied with a trilogy fight needed to split them. That’s a trio of fights no one really asked for in the first place, built on a rivalry which has lost the steam which propelled UFC 196 to smash just about every promotional record.

The bout represents substantial risk for McGregor and little in the way of reward – bar vengeance of course. Still, there is the nest egg of the 145lbs crown should his second jaunt to 170lbs end in another failure.

UFC president Dana White again insisted this week that whatever the outcome at the T-Mobile Arena in the world’s fight capital, McGregor will go back down to defend the strap against interim featherweight belt holder Aldo.

That’s not a prospect which excites the champ, though.

“There’s a lot to still happen yet,” said McGregor as he held court with world media at his camp base in Vegas. “I’m going to go in there, to face this man (Nate Diaz), do what I know I can do and put him away and then we’ll see.

“I feel strong in my mind. I don’t feel defeat. True champions rise again and I’m a true champion. I look forward to rising again on August 20. I shine under those lights and I will do it again.

“They’re (the rest of the division) praying I don’t come back. Tell me one time I didn’t make weight. I made championship weight when I didn’t have to.

“I am the featherweight world champion. The guy I KO’d in seconds is the interim, I am leaps and bounds ahead of that division.

”That he may be, but come next week McGregor could find himself in a position where the likes of Ronaldo will forever be leaps and bounds ahead of him.

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McGregor's best quotes from UFC 202 media day in Las Vegas

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Brandon Magnus / Zuffa LLC

UFC 202: DIAZ vs. McGREGOR 2 takes place Saturday, August 20 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Diaz beat the Irishman in their first bout in March, inflicting the 27-year-old’s first defeat since 2010.

McGregor, though, remains confident that he can defeat the American this time around. Here are some of McGregor’s best and most memorable quotes from the day…

ON THE EMOTION AFTER THE FIGHT:

“It’s part of the game. The highs are high and the lows are very, very low. This is the game we’re in. No one makes it out of this game unscathed, all you have to do is look at the history books. I made my plans for revenge and that’s it.”

ON WHY HE INSISTED THE FIGHT TO BE AT 170 AGAIN AND THE FIGHT IN GENERAL:

“He’s (Diaz) a welterweight now, he’s about 200-pounds. I couldn’t have made it at any weight other than the weight I lost at. I was controlling the contest, I was slapping the head off of him. I wanted to keep it as is, I wanted no changes and I got it.”

“I have reasons why I performed that way, but tune in August 20th and you’ll see the real me.”

“He was like Homer Simpson in that fight, he just kept taking shots until I couldn’t hit him anymore.”

“I feel strong in my mind. I don’t feel defeat. True champions rise again and I’m a true champion. I look forward to rising again on August 20th.”

“He’s got weight, he’s got endurance and I need to go in there and put him away. I am laser focused and I have to go put him away.”

ON THE CHANGES HE MADE IN THIS CAMP:

“Usually at the end of camp I’m banged up, I’m absolutely perfect. This time of the last camp I was in a bad way, the opponent change, I was banged up. This time, I’m fresh, I’m underweight and I know he’s about 200-pounds. It’s been a phenomenal camp and I look forward to showcasing what I’ve been doing in the gym.”

ON DANA SAYING HE’S FIGHTING ALDO NEXT:

“I read that, we’ll see. There’s a lot to still happen yet. I’m going to go in there, to face this man (Diaz), do what I know I can do and put him away and then we’ll see.”

“They’re (the rest of the division) praying I don’t come back. Tell me one time I didn’t make weight. I made championship weight when I didn’t have to. I am the featherweight world champion. The guy I KO’d in seconds is the interim, I am leaps and bounds ahead of that division.”

ON FIGHTING IN NYC:

“Right now we’re in Sin City, the desert and I’ve got business to handle here.”

ON HAVING A FULL CAMP TO PREPARE:

“I’m interested to see what the boy (Diaz) has done with a full camp.  Let’s see what his full camp has done. I believe I am the better fighter by a long stretch. He is tough, durable and big, that’s it. He’s spoke a big game about it, so let’s see.”

ON THE LACK OF TRASH TALK LEADING UP TO THE FIGHT:

“This trash talk thing, I feel like I’m talking the truth every time. I’m going to go out there and slap that big, heavy guy with eyeballs around the ring.”

ON HIS CONTRACT:

“The contract is sweet as pie. I believe I’m a strong reason why this company was sold for $4 billion. This contract is sweet, the next one will be better.”

ON THE OLYMPICS:

“There are some amazing athletes in Rio right now and I look forward to having my Olympics August 20th.”

ON RIC FLAIR’S COMMENTS:

“Ric Flair is a legend. As far as talking about gimmicks this (MMA) is the real thing here. These WWE guys are messed up in the head, the new guys are dweebs. The main guy, John Cena, he’s 40-years-old walking around in a bright orange t-shirt and a headband complaining that no one can see him.

“He’s a failed Olympian. This is the real thing over here. No disrespect to the dons. Vinnie Mac is a legend. What he’s been able to do with these dweebs is amazing.”

ON WHETHER HE NEEDS TO BEAT NATE TO CONTINUE TALKING THE WAY HE DOES:

“I shine under those lights and I will do it again on August 20th.”

ON FIGHTING MAYWEATHER:

“Right now I have Floyd running around the Showtime offices gathering my money. As soon as he has my money, we can fight.”

“If you want to fight me we can fight. If you need a safety net of rules, we can do that as long as you have my money. I don’t need no rules to protect me. That’s my thoughts on all that.”

“Why dominate in one world when you can dominate two?”

ON HIS COMMENTS ABOUT BEATING CRISTIANO RONALDO ON THE FORBES LIST:

“This is a $4 billion company and luckily I’m the head of operations. I’ll see him up there next year.”

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INFOGRAPHIC: McGregor's remarkable story so far

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Conor McGregor.

Conor McGregor will step out under the bright lights of the T-Mobile Arena next Sunday morning (UAE time) and take on Nate Diaz in a rematch, after the Irishman were beaten earlier this year by the same opponent at UFC 196.

Ahead of UFC 202, we look back at McGregor’s career so far and re-live some of his most memorable moments.

If your watching 202 this weekend, let us know what you think of the fights by using #360Fans across social media.

Conor McGregor - the story so far [Infographic]

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