LAS VEGAS — After Jon Jones’ failed doping test threw UFC 200 into turmoil, Conor McGregor realized the UFC needed a last-minute opponent for light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier.
McGregor might be a featherweight fighting at welterweight these days, but his confidence knows no poundage.
“I’m here, and I’m in shape,” McGregor said Thursday. “All they have to do is ask.”
McGregor’s self-belief appears to be unruffled after his 15-fight winning streak ended with a stunning loss to Nate Diaz in March. The fighters traded their usual trash talk and posturing when they made their first joint appearance to promote their rematch at UFC 202 on Aug. 20 at Las Vegas’ new T-Mobile Arena.
McGregor (19-3) only jokingly volunteered to fight at UFC 200, but made it clear he’s serious about avenging his loss to Diaz (19-10) and reasserting his position atop the promotion’s hierarchy. McGregor even referred to the widespread rumors of the UFC’s impending sale to an investment conglomerate by claiming he was the main reason behind it all.
“The reason there’s a $4.2 billion price tag on this company is because of me,” McGregor said. “The Chinese estimate my net worth at $4.2 billion.”
Diaz beat McGregor by submission in the second round at UFC 196 in a short-notice welterweight bout, stalling the rapid rise of the UFC’s loquacious Irish 145-pound champion.
The rematch was initially slated to be the main event at UFC 200, but the promotion pulled the bout after McGregor balked at breaking his training camp in Iceland to travel for his promotional obligations. McGregor showed refreshing humility when asked about the missed opportunity to be the main event in the landmark show.
“What I would have done differently is communicated a little bit better,” McGregor said. “I felt I played it a little bit wrong, but I think they played it a bit wrong as well.”
McGregor has altered his training for the rematch, acknowledging he wasn’t prepared for the bout against Diaz after lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos dropped out with an injury. McGregor even agreed to fight Diaz at the 170-pound welterweight limit, 25 pounds above his usual featherweight size and 15 pounds more than he would have weighed against Dos Anjos.
“This time, I’m preparing for a tall, lanky, ugly Mexican southpaw,” McGregor said of his Mexican-American opponent. “I’m going to go in and do what I always do: I’m going to tee off on him.”
McGregor is sparring with middleweights in training camp, and he agreed to take the rematch at 170 pounds again, saying he couldn’t ask for concessions if he truly wanted to avenge his first loss since November 2010.
Diaz only chuckled, noting that he hadn’t even been training when he accepted the first fight.
“Yeah, I should be better if I can prepare for a fight,” Diaz said. “I noticed some of the people (McGregor) is working with, and he’s bringing top guys in. That’s what we should be doing.”
McGregor’s coach would like him to abandon the weight cuts necessary to get to 145 pounds, and McGregor acknowledges that he expects to fight Diaz for a third time after beating him next month. But McGregor also reaffirmed his plan to go back to featherweight in the future, sticking to his intention to dominate multiple weight classes.
Just maybe not light heavyweight.
“I will beat Nate, get that win back, (then) dominate my division,” McGregor said. “And then we’ll re-talk about a trilogy fight with Nate.”