Sometimes, a chronological structure to an event’s key moments helps best explain the magnitude of the madness.
Conor McGregor arrived late for the UFC 205 news conference Thursday at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. Nothing new there for the UFC featherweight champion. Punctuality, yeah, that’s not his thing.
Eddie Alvarez, the lightweight champion against whom McGregor will fight Saturday in the UFC’s first event at Madison Square Garden, was less than thrilled that his opponent was not yet present. Facing a hostile crowd where the Irish McGregor fans drowned out the Philadelphia Alvarez contingency, Alvarez played into the ruckus from the start.
“I don’t understand what they say, they’re from Ireland,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez then began to answer another question before taking matters into his hands as McGregor still hadn’t appeared six-plus minutes into the event. “I don’t even have an opponent, I’ll see you guys tomorrow,” he said as he rose from his seat. “Yo, when he comes, you give me a call.”
And with that, Alvarez walked off stage.
Eight minutes later, the feature presentation at The Theater arrived, clad in a white mink coat, red turtleneck and red patterned pants trotting across the stage. McGregor danced past his seat, past UFC president Dana White at the podium and just beyond Alvarez’s seat. There, he saw his pot of gold and snatched Alvarez’s unattended belt.
Alvarez, after what he hopes is his only unsuccessful defense of the belt this week, stormed back on the stage and ripped the belt back from McGregor. If McGregor wants to become the UFC’s first two-weight champion, he’ll have to earn that in the octagon at The Garden, not the dais at The Theater.
Alvarez took his suit jacket off, re-situated his title on the dais. Then, he picked up his chair and placed it aggressively behind where McGregor was seated.
McGregor, as bold and brash as they come in this sport or any other, erupted. He sprung from his seat, fought through some hand checks from White, grabbed the chair and lifted it over his head. He looked ready to fight right there. White and a security guard were able to control the situation, thereby protecting the sanctity and exclusivity of Saturday’s pay-per-view fight.
“I’m going to shut this man up, trust me on that,” McGregor said.
“After I beat Conor and silence the country of Ireland, I’m going to have a couple pina coladas, you’ll have to look for me somewhere,” Alvarez said.
Both fighters settled down after a few moments and actually — get this — answered questions about their fight.
“I predict I rearrange his face,” McGregor said. “He’s too easily hit. Through all the talk and through all everything else, he can be hit too easily. It’s happened to him his whole career. And when you’re talking about somebody with the precision I have, I’m going to hit him, he’s going to fall. Maybe if his toughness holds up, he’ll survive. But then his face will begin to be rearranged.”
Alvarez (28-4, 3-1 UFC) won the title with a first-round knockout of Rafael Dos Anjos last July. Since his fight with McGregor (20-3, 8-1) came together in September, Alvarez has appeared unwavered in his confidence and able to hold his own under the spotlight that comes with being McGregor’s opponent. Alvarez has that Philadelphia toughness about him.
“I think he’s a little bit on tilt, he’s a bit flustered,” Alvarez said. “Conor looks distracted to me.”
It’s a different thing fighting McGregor, the biggest star in the game with the loudest microphone and the biggest legion of loyal, vocal and traveling fans. Alvarez played to the McGregor fans in the crowd throughout, ending the news conference by encouraging them to extend a certain three of their hand phalanges toward him as he took their photo.
“I love you guys,” Alvarez said. “Sad group of people right there.”
UFC 205 main card, 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view
Eddie Alvarez vs. Conor McGregor (lightweight title)
Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson (welterweight title)
Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (women’s strawweight title)
Chris Weidman vs. Yoel Romero
Donald Cerrone vs. Kelvin Gastelum
Miesha Tate vs. Raquel Pennington
UFC 205 prelims, 8 p.m. on FS1
Frankie Edgar vs. Jeremy Stephens
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Michael Johnson
Rafael Natal vs. Tim Boetsch
Vicente Luque vs. Belal Muhammad
UFC 205 early prelims, 7 p.m. on UFC Fight Pass
Jim Miller vs. Thiago Alves
Liz Carmouche vs. Katlyn Chookagian