BEVERLY HILLS — Michelle Waterson was pretty vocal in the aftermath of the infamous Conor McGregor bus attack back in April. She expressed issues that if McGregor was not punished enough, more fighters could begin acting the way he did.
Waterson now finds herself in an interesting position — she’s on the same main card on which McGregor is headlining at UFC 229 on Saturday in Las Vegas. “The Karate Hottie,” who fights Felice Herrig at the event, has softened a bit on McGregor’s antics. But she also doesn’t want anyone else to fall victim to something “The Notorious” does. Michael Chiesa and Waterson’s teammate Ray Borg were both injured when McGregor hurled a dolly through a bus window and unable to make their scheduled UFC 223 fights.
“Honestly, it is crazy, because I do think there were a lot of innocent fighters that were affected in everything that happened with the bus situation,” Waterson said Monday at a UFC 229 media lunch. “But on the same token, there’s so many people intrigued and tuning in to see what Conor does, because that is just what Conor does. Even at the [recent] press conference, I couldn’t help but be captured by Conor and how well he was able to entertain me. It was highly entertaining. That’s what he does for the UFC, that’s what he does for his own brand. He’s just very good at doing so. I just hope in the future he doesn’t make it a point to affect other people.”
Waterson, 32, said measures were taken at that press conference in New York to prevent chaos, like keeping the event to media only. However, the presser with McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov on Thursday in Las Vegas will be open to the public. Waterson joked that she should get a “helmet.”
“Conor is Conor,” Waterson said. “He’s gonna do what he’s gonna do. The only concern that I have is with my daughter and as long as I keep her safe, then I think it’ll be fine. I do think that Conor knows that it went a bit overboard and he’s still gonna be who he is. But I do feel like now there are precautions put in place so nothing crazy happens, obviously.”
Overall, Waterson said she does not dislike McGregor. In fact, she appreciates the way he can engage with the fanbase. After all, the Irishman is the biggest star in UFC history; Waterson is a marketable fighter represented by UFC owner Endeavor who is trying to build her own brand. Waterson said UFC president Dana White calls McGregor the best all-around fighter for a reason.
“He’s not talking just about his fighting style, he’s talking about his ability to sell fights,” Waterson said. “His fighting skills, his ability to have that mental warfare, his ability to do all the media and still be as sharp as he is stepping into the Octagon. That’s hard to do. So, I look up to him in that sense. I do think at the core of Conor’s heart, he is a martial artist. But he pushes the envelope. He pushes the envelope and that’s why everybody is tuning in this weekend to watch him.”
While Waterson doesn’t see herself connecting with people in the same way that McGregor does, she believes there is a way for her to show her personality to the MMA audience. Like in the recent dance video she did with Holly Holm that was posted to Instagram that has nearly 500,000 views.
“Thats why in my opinion, MMA and the UFC is so popular, because you get to associate the fighter with who they are and their story,” Waterson said. “The UFC allows each individual fighter to grow their brand the way they want to. For me, I’m not a shit talker — I’m not good at it. But I still can relate. I am a mother, I am a wife, I am a fighter. I enjoy being silly. I have a martial arts background. And there are plenty of people in this world that can relate to me that won’t necessarily relate to Conor. There’s somebody for everybody, I guess.”