Unsurprisingly, Conor McGregor did not take too kindly to being stripped of his two UFC world titles.
The Irishman was stripped of his featherweight title less than a year after he won it. He was stripped of the lightweight title 15 months after he won it in Nov. 2016 against Eddie Alvarez, which made him the first person in UFC history to hold two divisional titles simultaneously.
In a recent interview, McGregor claimed that his return to the Octagon this Saturday night against Khabib Nurmagomedov was motivated by his hunger to compete after falling out of love with the fight game during his time away from the sport.
“I don’t owe nobody an answer for nothing,” McGregor told The Mac Life.
“I’m here for the love of this game, love for competition. I fell out of love with the game for a bit. I went off and did my own thing, had many things going on, now I’m back. I’m hungry to compete and we’re here, right on the cusp of it, making weight and handling media obligations, and that’s it.
“The fans have just missed me compete, like I have missed me compete also. We all get what we want on October 6th: McGregor back inside the famous UFC Octagon.”
McGregor pointed to UFC stripping him off his world titles, and what the promotion did with the championship belts, as one of the reasons why he lost interest in the sport.
“I spent my entire life’s work to win those two UFC world titles. I set out a goal, I put absolutely everything [into it], I sacrificed so much to gain those world titles. And then, as soon as I won the second world title, I hadn’t been offered a featherweight contest, and the featherweight title was taken off me and was handed back to a man I had crazy history with [Jose Aldo],” he remembered.
“I traveled the world with him, it was a two-year build up and he ended up pulling out at the last minute. When I ended up fighting him, I knocked him out in 13 seconds and then they gave him the belt back as soon as I walked outside the Octagon in Madison Square Garden. And then what? About a month or two [later], the lightweight belt is stripped from me also.
“These things irritated me, seeing what way it goes, who the belts are given to, see who the people are who are challenging for the belts and who the person who has the belt is facing to get the belt. Many things irritated me in the game and watching it all unfold, I just became a lot more hungry to come back and show who the real king is.”
McGregor discussed some of the false starts he had making his return including a last-minute call up to fight Frankie Edgar when Max Holloway pulled out of their UFC 222 title clash. According to McGregor, the only reason the fight didn’t happen was because the UFC didn’t feel the juice was worth the squeeze.
“It was only a couple of days out from it, so I said 155 for that one. But they refused me because they anticipated that it would have cost them too much money to show up without having too much time to promote. However, I was willing to take a pay cut,” he revealed.
“I’m not in this for the money. Of course, I’m not going to fight for less than what I’m worth, but in those instances I would have; I just wanted to get in there and compete. Frankie was supposed to fight Max [Holloway] and I have a history with Frankie, we were linked many times, so I thought it was going to be a perfect opportunity. They turned it down because they thought it was going to cost too much. I was willing to take a pay cut.”
McGregor suggested that a rumored meeting with Rafael dos Anjos for an interim welterweight title didn’t come to be because of similar issues.
“Then, the Dos Anjos fight later on, it was an interim 170-pound belt in Rio de Janeiro, May 5th. I reached out again, ‘Let’s take this contest, but let’s not let the same error happen in the Frankie contest, let’s discuss’, I was willing to take a pay cut.
“Even for this one [UFC 229], with the pay-per-view it’s going to be tasty, but I’m not here for the money, I wanted to compete those times. I missed the game back then and that didn’t happen. Obviously, the situation arose with this next opponent and my team. It got a little bit more personal…just a lot more personal to be honest and now here we are.”