On Thursday, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor were set for another press conference ahead of their blockbuster fight at UFC 229. The last press conference was a frenzied display that made headlines in and out of the sport. It also featured McGregor drudging up Nurmagomedov’s questionable associations.
Fans and media alike were expecting fireworks once again yesterday. Though, when the event got under way only Nurmagomedov was present. McGregor being late to media events is a staple of the hoopla that comes with the Irishman’s fights.
The tardiness was not well received by the punctual Dagestani, who tapped his watch and told those gathered that he didn’t “need [to] wait for nobody.”
After answering some questions Nurmagomedov left the press conference before McGregor showed. McGregor graced the crowd soon after and was left with an empty chair to direct his insults at.
Submission Radio, who were at the press conference, asked Bellator MMA fighter and ESPN host Chael Sonnen what he thought of the whole affair. The former UFC middleweight title challenger suggested giving Nurmagomedov ‘a pass’ on skipping out, saying that attendees and viewers were largely tuning in for McGregor anyway. Check out his full comments in the video above and the transcript below:
“I mean, listen, here is the thing, Khabib tried to come in with the moral high ground, the argument of, ‘I’m sticking to the schedule, and the schedule says I show up a three o’clock and here I am, aren’t a man of my word?’ I thought that was a good story-line. I got it, I thought it was cool. The bad news is, the schedule said you were gonna stay till four. So, when you get up and walk out at 3:14 and you short the schedule 46 minutes, you lose the moral high ground. The other side of the coin is, what else did he want? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting the same result is the definition of insanity. Two weeks ago we saw what happens when he got on stage with Conor McGregor. To use it in fight terms, it was a 10-8 round for Conor McGregor. So, if you don’t have to put yourself through ridicule, why the hell would you?”
“From a business standpoint, you don’t ever want to walk away from a camera. And Khabib doesn’t get enough of them. From a long-term standpoint, you stay at the press conference, you stay in front of the cameras, you stay in front of guys like you and ESPN and everybody else that covers this. That’s the long-term play. But the other side of it is, when you’re up there and the guy is making you look like a fool in a language that you struggle with in the first place and you do have some weight to cut, give Khabib a pass. At the end of the day, it didn’t really change things. People came here to press conferences to see Conor. At the fight, different story. People wanna see Khabib fight. Sure they do. And they wanna see him fight Conor. Absolutely. But for a press conference, just put the camera on Conor.”
Sonnen was also asked whether Nurmagomedov leaving early would affect pay-per-view buys, which UFC president Dana White has said is trending towards three million. Sonnen said press conference moments help a buy-rate, but wasn’t sure if this match-up needed them to grab fans’ attentions.
“Yeah, I know. And those are so fun. They’re such fun moments. But I can just tell you, the vibe in the arena that was absolutely packed, knowing no punches were going to be thrown, I think that it’s a pretty good sign. And whatever the numbers are, I guess we’ll find out after the fact, but I can tell you, for anticipation, I think I’m at my height of anticipation. I’m a huge fan of the sport, I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to see a fight this bad.”
Sonnen also gave the Submission Radio guys his prediction on the fight. The wrestling standout said he’d already seen this fight two times this year and, as a result, has a pretty good read on how Saturday night is going to go.
“I think this is a lot of fun and I’m excited to see it, but I do think it’s the third time that we’ve seen it this year. I think the first time we saw it was called Ngannou vs. Stipe. And the second time we saw it it was called Till vs. Woodley. And the third time we’re gonna see it it’s gonna be called Khabib versus Conor. In this sport you’ve got to be complete, and things change all the time and I’m certainly open to learning new things, but since they set that cage up for the first time in 1993, when a guy that doesn’t know how to wrestle takes on a guy who does, that story ends the same every time.”
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