UFC superstar Conor McGregor has always appreciated the comparisons he gets to legendary boxer Muhammad Ali while simultaneously being somewhat uneasy when both their names are mentioned in the same sentence.
In the lead up to McGregor’s fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov on Saturday night from Las Vegas, UFC president Dana White has showered the former two-division champion with compliments regarding his masterful use of mental warfare against every opponent he faces.
The latest instance came when McGregor took aim at Nurmagomedov ahead of UFC 229 by digging into his financial ties to a Russian businessman currently in jail as well as his father’s relationship with brutal Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov. McGregor rarely picks at his opponents on the surface but instead he researches the best possible way to get under their skin and more often times than not it works.
“Conor McGregor is the master of mental warfare,” White said about him after the UFC 229 pre-fight press conference in New York. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I think he’s better than any body, even Muhammad Ali.”
As much as McGregor appreciates that compliment, the last thing he’d ever do is compare himself to Ali.
Growing up as a boxing enthusiast in Ireland, McGregor revered the greatest athletes who participated in the sweet science and Ali was always near the top of that list.
That’s why McGregor appreciates when people mention his name in the same breath as Ali but he’ll never, ever be the one to say he’s even on the same level as the former heavyweight champion.
“What he says about Muhammad Ali and the mental warfare, I respect that and I appreciate that, but Muhammad Ali is a special, special individual,” McGregor said ahead of his fight on Saturday night. “I am not even close to that man’s greatness. The things he done throughout his career, he’s a special individual and to even have my name next to that man is truly a proud moment for me.
“So thank you all, but I cannot compare myself to that great man.”
For all the talk about McGregor’s ego and the outlandish things he says from time to time, the reality is he’s more than happy to pay homage to the legends who came before him.
That’s why McGregor will always graciously say thank you for the compliment when his name is mentioned alongside Ali’s but he’ll never be the one to utter those words.