Conor McGregor will have the eyes of New York on him at UFC 205, and that’s something he doesn’t want to take for granted.
The UFC featherweight champion will try to become the first concurrent two-weight UFC champion when he fights Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight title on Nov. 12 at Madison Square Garden, an event that wasn’t legally possible until earlier this year.
“Let’s enjoy this moment right now, because it took so long to get here,” McGregor said on a media call Thursday. “So many hours went into getting the UFC into New York City, and now here we are.”
This is the UFC’s first event here since professional mixed martial arts was legalized earlier this year by the state, ending a years-long battle in the legislature that left New York as the only place without professional MMA in North America.
McGregor (20-3, 8-1 UFC) wants to enjoy the milestone event, lamenting those worried about what will come next. One could say that’s his own fault as McGregor has teased a big announcement following his fight with Alvarez (28-4, 3-1 UFC), but the Irish star is ready to soak in the first New York show now that he’s arrived in town.
“I like New York, I got in here yesterday, walked around the city, the city’s buzzing, there’s billboards up everywhere,” McGregor said. “The fans are energetic, at that press conference the fans were absolutely amazing. The city has been hungry for the sport for so long, so now here we are and it’s an honor to be leading the way heading the bill and I’m going to go out and put on a show and we’ll go from there.”
Still, in typical McGregor fashion, he later reminded everyone of where he believes he stands in the larger MMA landscape
“I run this whole (expletive), I run New York. I’m the reason we’re even here in the first place. I’m the reason this whole thing is happening,” McGregor boasted. “If I wasn’t here, this whole ship goes down, and that’s the truth, that’s facts. There’s no one else out there, there’s no one but me.”
McGregor said they are “doing big things” in the market and believes next Saturday will break gate and attendance records for MSG. When asked if New York could serve as a strong counter to Las Vegas for the promotion under new owners WME-IMG, McGregor said he was open to the possibility.
“When you come over here and we’re talking the numbers that we’re talking here in New York City, I mean, and it looks like it could be – I don’t know. Who knows what’s around the corner, I don’t know,” McGregor said. “I haven’t really spoken to the new owners and what their visions are. I know Lorenzo and the Fertitta regime were based in Las Vegas, that’s where they’re from, so right now it’s under new leadership, so I’m not sure, we’ll see where it goes, but we’re doing big things here wherever we go.”
And those big things also include what he’s trying to do inside the Octagon as McGregor will fight at lightweight for the first time in his UFC career. He aims to become the promotion’s first two-weight champion, a feat he achieved in Cage Warriors earlier in his career, and he believes this accomplishment on this stage will be one of his “shining moments.”
As always, McGregor is supremely confident he’ll finish the fight. He plans to “retire” Alvarez at UFC 205, telling the lightweight champion, “you will not look the same, you will not think the same.”
Alvarez, however, isn’t impressed with McGregor’s résumé, including his struggles in two fights against Nate Diaz. The Philadelphia native believes he’s fought better opponents in various promotions around the world over his career, and that will show come fight night.
“The guys he’s faced are nothing, nothing of the caliber of fighter I am,” Alvarez said. “He will see the night of the fight that, ‘(expletive), I’ve been going up against (expletive) opponents that were good style matchups, and this one’s not.’”