The bottled up rivalry between Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor burst back into life at the UFC 202 pre-fight press conference, igniting a fire in the previously composed Irishman.
The UFC featherweight champion has largely cut a cool figure in the lead up to his highly-anticipated welterweight rematch with Diaz in Las Vegas at the T-Mobile Arena tomorrow (UAE 07:00).
That, though, was replaced by vexation after the press conference exploded when Diaz walked out before triggering a melee by throwing his water bottle in McGregor’s direction.
Chaos ensued, with obscenities filling the air alongside empty cans, bottles and even coffee cups. According to UFC president Dana White, there’s even a lawsuit in motion after someone was apparently injured during the incident.
The clash has fired up McGregor and the Dublin native cut an edgy figure at the open workouts yesterday.
“It’s a big fight. We came here ready for war, not ready to throw little bottles and go running. We are ready to fight so let’s go,” the 28-year-old said.
“That fairytale he’s been having is coming to an end. So all the fans have been giving him this invincible feeling that he can’t be knocked out. He can be knocked out and he will be knocked out.”
In what is the biggest fight of his life, McGregor is seeking redemption after suffering the first loss of his UFC career having been choked in the second round of their UFC 196 clash in March.
With so much riding on the rematch, the promotion’s biggest star has poured $300,000 from his deep pockets into his training camp to ensure he captures revenge.
Although McGregor refuses to entertain the thought of defeat, the divisive Irishman was adamant that consecutive defeats for the first time in his MMA career would not affect his star power.
“My legacy’s set in stone,” McGregor said. “My legacy was set in stone when Jose (Aldo) crumbled in 13 seconds. This is just something else outside of this. This is just a straight fight. So I’m happy with that cause that’s what I came here for. I came in here for a straight fight.”
McGregor has obsessively hunted the rematch with Diaz after the Californian stepped in on 20 days notice to shake up the perceived natural order.
And he believes the promotion is worried lightning may strike twice tomorrow.
“Look at what’s happening. I get paid finally after I’ve been stuck in a contract for years and they sell the UFC,” Diaz told UFC Tonight.
“It’s changing because of what’s going on here and if people don’t recognize that, they’re tripping,” Diaz told “UFC Tonight” on Wednesday. “That’s why they threw me back in there, they want to weed me out and try to get me out of here until it gets too big.”
JOHNSON IS READY TO RUMBLE
Anthony Johnson’s light-heavyweight clash with Glover Teixeira in the co-main event of UFC 202 has title implications and the inevitability of a knockout finish.
The No1 ranked Johnson takes on No2 Teixeira with the victor likely positioning themselves into a shot at 205lbs champion Daniel Cormier.
Arguably two of the heaviest hitters in MMA, Teixeira is riding a three-fight win streak, which includes a first-round KO of Rashad Evans in April, after back-to-back losses following a title defeat to Jon Jones.
‘Rumble’, meanwhile, has two straight wins under his belt after losing out on the title himself when Cormier submitted him last year.
Jones dismantled the Brazilian over five rounds on the way to a unanimous decision at UFC 172 but Johnson is anticipating a different style match up.
“I watched that fight a long time ago, but I haven’t looked at it again,” Johnson said. “I know what I need to do and what I can do. It’s about being efficient and understanding what you need to do.
“We all know that Glover hits hard and is dangerous on his feet. And what makes him so good is that he’s also dangerous on the ground. He’s the real thing. But I feel I can stand with anybody. I’m just going to go out there and do me.”
Before Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz step into the Octagon, their respective team-mates, Artem Lobov and Chris Avila, will meet on the preliminary card to further stoke the rivalry between the two camps. Avila will be making his Octagon debut while Lobov is fighting for his UFC career after two straight defeats.