September 25, 2018

Did Conor McGregor Get Under Khabib’s Skin at the UFC 229 Press Conference?

Former UFC Featherweight and Lightweight Champion Conor McGregor and UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov recently participated in the first press conference held to promote their highly anticipated 6 October showdown. Although only media members were granted access to the conference, it wasn’t long after the live broadcast that the entirety of the MMA community started buzzing.

As fans expected, the verbal barbs issued during the UFC 229 press conference were entertaining, to say the least. McGregor appeared in top form, and the taunts and jokes he threw at Nurmagomedov will undoubtedly be seen in upcoming trailers for the fight. However, the stoic Dagestani didn’t roll over and accept a part as McGregor’s verbal punching bag, as so many other athletes have (perhaps unwittingly) done. Instead, Khabib stayed in the pocket and responded to Conor with logic, reason, and calmness.

You also have to give a huge credit to Khabib as he looked pretty good considering English is not his first language. I mean, can you even imagine McGregor learning a different language – a guy can’t even speak proper English. One of my favorite Khabib’s quotes about McGregor is “I don’t even understand what this guy is saying”…

For example, when McGregor said, “I’m truly gonna love putting a bad, bad beating on this little, glass-jaw rat,” Nurmagomedov smiled uncomfortably and tried to laugh the remark off. He looked bothered (and it’d be odd if he wasn’t bothered, given what McGregor said), but he didn’t shout back at the Irishman. This prevented him from being clipped by any particularly devastating McGregor one-liners. Because, as other athletes have had the misfortune of finding, McGregor employs a trash-talking style that’s similar to his approach in the Octagon: he waits for an opening and strikes relentlessly when he finds it.

McGregor vs Khabib staredown at press conference
Khabib looked confident and haven’t said a word to Conor during staredown. McGregor was kept saying “You’re dead, you’re dead, you’re dead. I can see blue lips, blue lips.”

With everything considered, there weren’t any statements from McGregor that could be regarded as on-par with his greatest trash talk – his “Who is that guy?” line against Jeremy Stephens, his “You hit the deck” comment to Chad Mendes and similar instances. But again, it was a fun overall showing for an event, in a fight-promoting press conference, that isn’t usually very interesting to watch.

To answer the question if McGregor got under Khabib Nurmagomedov’s skin or not, it appears as though McGregor did get underneath his skin at the press conference but not overwhelmingly so. We’ve seen countless mixed martial artists taunted and embarrassed by McGregor before fights, and in addition to thrilling viewers and building hype, these thrashings serve to enrage their targets and cause them to fight emotionally, which plays into McGregor’s style.

Nothing of the sort happened to Nurmagomedov. This might change in the coming weeks before the fight, but as a whole, Khabib seems to have thick enough skin to hold his own with McGregor, in terms of trash talk.

Conor McGregor drinking his whiskey "Proper 12" at press conference
Conor McGregor was focused on taking shots and promoting his whiskey at the UFC229 press conference.

Khabib about “Proper 12” whiskey which McGregor offered him: “I never drink this sh*t. What are you doing here? Why you come here? This is not about whiskey — 6th of October I’m going to maul you. You know this, 6th of October I’m going to maul you. He thinks whiskey will help him?” It kind of even seemed that McGregor was trying harder to promote his whiskey than promote the fight or put pressure on Khabib.

Furthermore, it’s doubtful that McGregor’s trash talk will change the way Khabib fights; even if he was angered by Notorious’s comments, “The Eagle” most definitely wouldn’t engage in a stand-up war like Jose Aldo and others have. His path to victory involves completing takedowns, just as McGregor’s path to victory involved keeping the contest at striking range. Whoever is better able to impose his will, and perhaps whoever imposes his will quickest, will probably win.

And that’s a major element of the anticipation surrounding the bout – that two of the very best lightweights on the planet have two completely different styles.

Be sure to catch UFC 229: McGregor versus Nurmagomedov when it goes down on 6 October 2018. The pay-per-view main card will begin at ten o’clock in the east and seven o’ clock in the west US time. We are going to post more information and news about the fight in the upcoming days, stay tuned!

Thanks for reading!

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