Last night was to be the cranking up of the Conor McGregor/Khabib Nurmagomedov hype, but it ultimately proved to start with not a bang but a whimper. The two went tete-a-la-tete at a press conference in New York that, oddly, was behind closed doors, which gave it a very eerie feel.
McGregor did complain about the empty arena, complaining that the UFC elected not to throw the doors open to the public.
If I was an owner, and part of the promotion, I would have had the fucking fans in this arena. Where's the fucking fans at? That's who we fucking fight for. That's who pays the bills. Bring me all over the world and we're just sitting here in a fucking thing. I'm on probation up to my eyeballs and ongoing and incoming civil cases and we've come here to do this bullshit.
.@thenotoriousmma wants to know, "Where are the f****** fans?" Was it a mistake to make the #UFC229 press conference closed to the public? Watch the presser here: https://t.co/aV7P0DKwWQ pic.twitter.com/OliUtEkMmr
— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) September 21, 2018
Elsewhere, McGregor and Khabib took it in turns to insult each other. There was plenty of talk about the McGregor also squeezed in a bit of product placement for his new brand of whiskey.
The October 6th clash will be McGregor's first in the UFC in almost two years, and he warned his opponent that "I came back for the love of this, to come and shut this man up — a little rat, a little weasel" as he ran through his Rolodex of press conference insults.
When it came to the bus incident, McGregor interrupted a question aimed for Khabib:
A man who grows in numbers but on his own and when confronted in a similar situation, cowers away. And that’s what you saw with that little shit on the bus. He shit his jocks.
Did you not see me outside the bus? I showed you my hands — no weapons.
To let him know I came unarmed. Step off the bus. You talked the big game, now I’m here. He done fucking nothing. He sat and took a shit on that bus. Hid and cowered behind fucking women and caused what happened to happen.
I just thank the Lord Jesus Christ that that man had not got the balls to step foot off that bus, or that the bus door did not open, because if that bus door had opened, this man would be dead right now. He would be in a box and I would be in a cell and we would not have this great fight ahead of us.
Khabib, for his part, described himself as the "Floyd Mayweather of MMA", which doesn't exactly sound like the most sought-after moniker in sport but heck, what do we know.
Here's a portion of the reaction online, with the empty arena one of the main talking points.
Watching a McGregor presser without fans present is like watching that video of Big Bang Theory without the laugh track. Kind of exposes it for what it is. #UFC229
— Gavan Casey (@GavanCasey) September 20, 2018
Do McGregor's promos work with no fan reaction?
— Mike Chiappetta MMA (@MikeChiappetta) September 20, 2018
That #UFC229 press conference was weird to say the least.
No fans. No atmosphere. McGregor still completely unfazed and in full on Celtic war mode ⚔️
— Dan Jardine 🏴 (@JardineOfficial) September 20, 2018
It was a mistake not to let fans in. McGregor needs a live studio audience to make his stuff really pop. He’s giving it his all, and there’s no energy in the room for him to feed off.
— Ben Fowlkes (@benfowlkesMMA) September 20, 2018
Mcgregor made that press conference. With no fans, that whole thing would be so dull.
Mcgregor sells that sport.
— Luke Cervino (@cervinlj) September 20, 2018
— Mohamed Elmi (@Mohamed1994Elmi) September 20, 2018
Just tuned in to the McGregor vs Khabib presser. Just shows that these kind of press conferences are very, very awkward when there are no fans in the building to create atmosphere... #UFC229
— Joe Citrone (@Joe_Citrone) September 20, 2018