LAS VEGAS – For better or for worse, “old” Conor McGregor is back.
After two fights in which the notoriously boisterous Irishman showed respect for his opponents, McGregor returned to his old ways before his rubber match with Dustin Poirier. He put those antics on full display at the UFC 264 press conference. After seeming to turn a new sheet against Donald Cerrone and Poirier with a polite approach, the McGregor who took the sports world by storm returned and took no punches. In the preparation.
But is this attitude adjustment for Poirier or McGregor?
MORE: UFC 264 Fighters Discuss McGregor’s Impact
Since the trilogy fight was set for July 10, McGregor has stepped up the trash talk. At first, he seemed relatively harmless with the usual barrage of insults. But things took a sinister turn last week when McGregor dragged Poirier’s wife, Jolie, into the fray. By the time the two fighters took the stage Thursday, McGregor’s temper had reached a boil.
After throwing a bottle of Poirier’s hot sauce into the crowd, McGregor charged into his opponent as UFC President Dana White and event staff frantically tried to separate the fighters. After a skirmish was avoided, McGregor, dressed in a purple suit and sunglasses, threw one verbal grenade after another in an attempt to shake Poirier off.
“Your wife is your husband, you’re just a little w … of one thing, a silly little Highlander,” McGregor said before getting the pro-McGregor crowd to sing along with him. “Jolie’s wife, Jolie’s wife, Jolie’s wife!”
McGregor did everything from calling Poirier “Buster Douglas” for what he considered a serendipitous victory in January, to threatening to take his opponent’s head off Saturday night.
To his credit, Poirier stayed calm under fire. Unlike their first meeting, Poirier refused to allow McGregor to see that any of his words affected him. Instead, he chose his places to return fire. When asked why he thought McGregor’s attitude changed for this fight, Poirier said: “Because he got knocked out.
“No fast McGregor, McGregor sleeps.”
UFC 264: McGregor-Poirier Odds, Prediction, Trends
It was a familiar sight for fans of the Irishman, as well as White, who has had a front row seat to the McGregor show from ground zero to this day.
“Listen, I think every version of Conor that has come out in the last few years is always different,” White said. “It does what it has to do.”
But is this what you have to do? Is this the only way to find “old” Conor McGregor inside the Octagon? Words can’t fight for you, but they sure can shake things up. But it certainly feels like McGregor is looking to find himself rather than get inside Poirier’s head.
“For me, the aura no longer exists,” Poirier said. “A very dangerous fighter sitting here, sure. Sure. But I see a man. You in the crowd, cheer him on, have fun. But I see a man sitting here in front of me that I have defeated and I know I can defeat again.” .
It certainly looks like McGregor is chasing a high he experienced earlier and acknowledges that he needs that extra adrenaline rush to perform to the full of his powers. Even if it doesn’t have the same effect on his opponent as when he defeated Poirier over six years ago, it takes McGregor back to a time when he dominated the MMA scene in and out of the Octagon. There was mutual respect in January, but McGregor clearly has no intention of sharing that stance in the third fight. As for Poirier, he sees through the antics and refuses to lower himself to the level of his opponent.
“I respect him,” Poirier said despite all that was said. “I don’t hate anyone here. I’m in a different place mentally, man. I respect him and everything he’s done.”
Perhaps that is what McGregor needs to operate to his full potential. It is unknown if the barrage of insults and personal attacks will have any effect on Poirier entering the trilogy fight. But the element of finding familiarity and settling into a comfort zone seems to be very real.
And with the stakes for Saturday’s fight, every little advantage matters.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.