Conor McGregor joined the UFC in April of 2013 and proceeded to win nine of 10 fights, eight by either knockout or submission. And while his skill set is rarely matched in the Octagon, there is no comparison for his ability to dominate a news conference.
McGregor’s ability to consistently get under the skin of his opponents at news conferences tends to have an effect on what occurs in the actual fight. Next up is Floyd Mayweather, who is similarly known for his verbal impact.
A four-city press tour begins Tuesday at 5 p.m. ET in Los Angeles and continues this week in Toronto on Wednesday, New York on Thursday and London on Friday.
ESPN’s Brett Okamoto has attended numerous McGregor news conferences over the years.
Here’s his primer on what you should prepare for.
1. What should fans expect in this week’s news conferences?
Lots of energy from McGregor — and lots of casually dismissive responses from Mayweather.
McGregor has learned that it pays to be calm and “energy efficient” in a fight, but as far as a press conference goes? He can’t help himself from getting fired up. Especially when a crowd is buying into what he’s selling.
Mayweather can also entertain, but his style is very different. I can’t imagine him getting anywhere near as animated as McGregor will. That’s not to say his responses will be dull though. He’ll take shots at McGregor in his own way. All of it will make for great theater. That goes without saying.
2. What makes Floyd and Conor so effective in verbal warfare?
For McGregor, it’s three things: confidence, truth and fan reaction.
McGregor is one of the most self-confident human beings I have ever been around. It’s impossible not to feel that. And I can only imagine that if you’re preparing to face him in a ring that can be unsettling. “What does this guy know, that I don’t?” That kind of thing.
He also speaks a lot of truth. People call him a lunatic and say he talks just to talk, but this guy does his research. He knows his opponents well and he’s great at shining a spotlight on their faults, shortcomings and/or insecurities. No insult hurts worse than one with a ring of truth to it — and that’s something McGregor understands well.
And lastly, the fans. You can’t win in a news conference against McGregor. The closest anyone has come to doing it was Nate Diaz, and he did so by getting up and leaving. With rare exception, McGregor always gets the fans on his side, and his opponent always knows it.
3. Will either fighter actually be able to get under the other’s skin this week?
I doubt it. Despite McGregor’s brilliance when it comes to this, Mayweather appears to be a pretty uncrackable foe.
And vice versa. The narrative is already out that McGregor doesn’t have a whole lot to lose in this fight. This isn’t his sport and he’s being paid extremely well to moonlight in it. What can Mayweather really say that would truly ruffle his feathers? I can’t think of much.
The only thing I could see getting under Mayweather’s skin is if McGregor goes on a full-fledged attack of his history of domestic violence — which, for the record, I wouldn’t put past McGregor doing.
4. What’s your favorite news conference memory of covering McGregor?
McGregor has delivered a lot of press conference gems, there’s no arguing that. You could literally make a list of about 20 of his best quotes or actions, and every single one would be gold.
His most viral is probably the ‘Who da fook is that guy?’ line, referencing UFC featherweight Jeremy Stephens, who saw an opportunity to get on the mic in New York when he jumped in and answered a question that was directed at McGregor.
McGregor heard Stephens talking, looked around the stage confused, and then put him to bed with the classic one-liner, declaring he had no idea who he was.
My favorite McGregor press conference moment though, was when he jumped up and grabbed Jose Aldo‘s UFC title belt away from him in Dublin. It was perfect for the cameras, it ticked Aldo off and it even served as a preview in some ways to how the actual fight would go.
5. Do you see the news conferences being more exciting for fans than the actual fight?
No. News conferences are great and sometimes they do end up being better than a fight itself, but I’m choosing to be optimistic here.
Not that I think the fight will be competitive. I don’t think it will be that entertaining. But I do think McGregor won’t give up — and that if it’s not going well, he’ll throw caution to the wind and put himself at risk to land a Hail Mary shot.
I think Mayweather will feel pressure to be entertaining as well. Not by taking risks but by showcasing just how superior his boxing is and show McGregor up a bit.