Amongst Conor McGregor fans, the episodes of UFC 202 Embedded that were released following the wild events of Wednesday’s pre-fight press conference must have made for uncomfortable viewing.
The Irish fighter’s impulsive decision to fire full cans of Monster Energy at Nate Diaz and his entourage, who were dangerously close to spectators, members of the media and security staff, led to claims that the master manipulator had once again fallen for Diaz’s psychological ploys.
Episodes 4 and 5 of the UFC’s fly on the wall vlog series seemed to confirm this theory.
“What’s he getting out of here for, we have to face off,” said McGregor, after the presser came to it’s abrupt end. “Let’s keep it going. The little fool!”
“I’m going to kill your man. I’m going to bleeding burst your man,” he added, before letting out an exasperated cry. “Fuck all that.”
Only days prior to a fight in which a measured, calculated performance is required of him, McGregor seemed in the mood for a brawl.
The video even had some members of the Diaz camp in a celebratory mood. Chris Avila, who makes his promotional debut opposite McGregor’s teammate Artem Lobov on Saturday night, told MMAFighting that the Stockton contingent had scored a big victory at the David Copperfield Theatre.
“He looked like he was throwing a tantrum after,” said the California featherweight. “From the looks of it, Nate’s in his head.”
“We’re 1-0 now. It’s started. It all starts when you get here, so we’re 1-0 right now. We won the press conference.”
On Friday however, coach John Kavanagh played down the idea that this incident had a major impact on his fighter’s mindset, although he did acknowledge that there was an initial emotional response.
“A lot of, as I call them, the MMA psychiatrists have been reading a lot into that video,” Kavanagh told the42. “My girlfriend, Orla, and [Conor’s girlfriend] Dee were both in the line of fire. Actually Dee got hit by a roll of tape and Orla almost got hit by a bottle. I got hit by a hot coffee and it sprayed onto Orla as well. So there was never going to be anything except an emotional response to that.”
“It’s one thing pushing and shoving on the stage, I don’t mind that – that’s a bit of fun. You don’t take it all that serious. But it’s another thing taking the high ground and throwing full bottles of water down on a fighter’s girlfriend. And they were aiming for us, they weren’t even aiming for Conor, they were aiming at us.”
“So, what was going to happen with a camera following us for the first minute or two? It wasn’t going to be anything else except that. Now, what followed an hour later? We were back to the way we were.”
Kavanagh added that McGregor isn’t going to let this strange debacle undo months of hard work and focus.
“We have a solid gameplan, this is not a street fight, this is not a brawl,” he said. “We are not going in there with that in mind. We are going in there with a plan that’s taken 4 or 5 months at this stage to conceive, prepare for and now time to execute.”
Still, the SBG Ireland founder did admit that he lost a great deal of respect for the Diaz camp because of their actions at the media junket.
“Before every fight there’s build-up,” said the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. “It’s a fight at the end of the day. I have no problem with that. I have no problem with the back and forth and, at the weigh-ins, the pushing and shoving. I’ve never had a problem with that. And then, when the fight’s over, you bow, you shake hands, respect is shown. But that’s going to be hard for me to come back from. They new there were girlfriends down there, there was kids down there, and they instigated it. And that’s a lot of respect lost for me.”
Shortly after the last fight, Kavanagh tweeted a picture of he and Diaz’s teammate Jake Shields hanging out in a nightclub. The message that accompanied the photo read; “Fight to the death and then share the secrets.”
It was a show of real class and sportsmanship from both men, especially considering the animosity that had characterised the brief run-in to the bout and the fact that Shields had been a central to it.
— Coach Kavanagh (@John_Kavanagh) March 6, 2016
However, Kavanagh revealed that it was Shields who launched the cup of hot coffee in his direction on Wednesday. Thus, the Dubliner was reluctant to forecast such an amicable post-fight atmosphere this time around.
“We had a lot[of trash-talk] in the last build-up, and when I happened to bump into Jake at the club after the loss, I was the first to shake his hand and congratulate him and his team. And I thought we would do the same this time. Let’s have the build-up, let’s have a good contest, and hope to bump into them again and shake hands on a profitable night and on what’s going to be a fantastic fight. But that’s marred it for me. That man aimed a hot coffee at my face, and it’s hard to let that go.”