UFC 229: Khabib defeats McGregor but post-fight melee overshadows showdown

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UFC 229: Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov hit limit on scales

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UFC 229 has been billed as the biggest event in the company’s history and is forecast to set a new benchmark for pay-per-view buys, so it will be a relief to organisers that its two headliners successfully made weight.

All fighters on the card had a two-hour window from 9am local time on Friday to weigh in and Nurmagomedov turned up immediately to scale 155lbs.

McGregor, who appeared a little over an hour later and weighed in half a pound less, will have a final staredown against his rival at a ceremonial weigh-in later on Friday.

The Irishman is returning to mixed martial arts following a two-year hiatus, having made a brief switch to boxing in the interim period to take on Floyd Mayweather in a highly lucrative showdown.

He earned around 100million US dollars (£76m) from that bout in August last year, prompting questions as to how he manages to retain his desire in mixed martial arts at Thursday’s final news conference.

Conducting his media duties separately to Nurmagomedov after arriving late to the Park Theater, McGregor said: “I’m starving. I am starving for this man’s head. I am going to eat him alive in there.

“There’s no way this man’s hungrier than me, there’s nobody that’s hungrier than me in this game. I don’t stop, I’m too on it, I am 24/7 on this game.

“I know who the king is and I’m going to show it on Saturday night.”

McGregor was stripped of his featherweight and lightweight titles due to his inactivity and makes his comeback against an opponent who succeeded him as top dog in the latter division.

Animosity between the pair has ramped up significantly since McGregor threw a dolly at the window of a bus containing several rival fighters, including Nurmagomedov, in April, and the war of words has intensified.

Nurmagomedov revealed he is still irked by that incident in Brooklyn just days prior to UFC 223, when he claimed the vacant 155lbs belt with a unanimous points victory over late replacement Al Iaquinta.

Ahead of the first defence of his strap, the Russian said: “If I say no, this is not true. A little bit.

“Of course I am angry and a little bit emotional. But my job when I go to the cage is I control my emotions and stay relaxed. I’ll keep going and maul this guy.

“Sometimes the anger helps, but most important I stay relaxed. This is most important.”

Their fight is being seen as a classic striker versus grappler contest, but McGregor thinks he holds the upper hand.

“He’s afraid of a clatter,” McGregor said. “Make no mistake, he does not like to be hit, he has novice reactions, he’s a flincher. He’s also easily backed up so I’m very prepared and very aware of what to expect. It’s nothing that fazes me.

“I know every shot everyone throws. I know every move everyone makes, that’s it. I keep my eyes on the game that I run, that’s it. I overlook my empire with a hawk eye.

“I believe he’ll spot an exit and try to take it. But I won’t let it happen.”

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Khabib Nurmagomedov counters Conor McGregor's late arrival to presser with prompt departure

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Khabib Nurmagomedov delivered the perfect riposte to Conor McGregor‘s tardiness by conducting his media duties and departing before the Irishman arrived, according to UFC president Dana White.

The pair were due to hold a final news conference on Thursday ahead of their UFC 229 showdown in Las Vegas this weekend, but McGregor did not turn up for the scheduled start of 15:00 local time.

McGregor would later blame the Las Vegas traffic for his late entrance but hinted he was playing mind games when he said: “(Nurmagomedov) knew what he signed up for. I’ve been later than this.”

Nurmagomedov refused to dance to McGregor’s tune, though, and turned up promptly, not hanging around long enough to wait for his bitter rival.

Nurmagomedov’s actions took even White by surprise but he was full of praise for how the Russian handled the situation.

“This one was not how we planned it to go down but, at the end of the day, with McGregor and all the mental warfare games going on, there’s the counter to it right there,” White said.

“‘I’m here on time, I spoke to the media, I’m out of here, I’m not going to play your game and wait for you’, so this is all part of what goes on leading up to the fight.

“They’ll both be at the weigh-ins on time and we’ll get the staredown when it actually matters.

“To be honest, I prefer that anyway. We saw the staredown in New York (at last month’s press conference), I want to see the staredown (on Friday). That’s the one I’m more interested in.”

White wondered whether McGregor would return to the UFC after a lucrative foray into boxing last year to take on former pound-for-pound kingpin Floyd Mayweather.

McGregor will end a near two-year absence from the octagon at the T-Mobile Arena on Saturday to take on an opponent who succeeded him as UFC lightweight champion.

“When a guy makes $100 million you don’t know whether he’s ever going to fight again,” White said.

“Conor made a lot of money, I’m sure he had a lot fun and did what he wanted to do but no matter how much money you make, you can only sit at home for so long before you start to go crazy.

“You can tell this guy’s passionate about fighting, he loves breaking records and he obviously loves making money, so he’s back.”

Mayweather-McGregor did 4.3 million pay-per-view buys, and White revealed what has been billed as the biggest fight in the UFC’s history could do similar numbers.

That would obliterate the previous highest UFC record of 1.65 million buys for McGregor’s rematch against Nate Diaz in 2016.

White added: “All the numbers are tracking higher than Mayweather-McGregor and this fight is a global fight, the whole world will be literally watching this fight.

“It’s huge, it’s massive. I don’t want to say we’re going to do Mayweather-McGregor numbers but we could possibly do Mayweather-McGregor numbers.”

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