SAN ANTONIO — If Conor McGregor’s goal was to get under the skin of most UFC featherweights, he has succeeded.
Both Cub Swanson and Jeremy Stephens bristled when asked about the brash Irish fighter Thursday at open workouts in advance of UFC Fight Night here at AT&T Center.
"I don’t want to speak on that," Stephens said. "That guy isn’t even on the radar yet. I don’t want to mention him."
Swanson and Stephens meet in the main event Saturday night with a title fight on the line. The victor will likely meet the winner of August’s fight between champion Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes. Meanwhile, McGregor is ranked No. 13 in the division and has not fought in nearly a year after tearing his ACL. He takes on Diego Brandao next month in his native Dublin.
"There’s nothing to talk about," Swanson said. "I think me and Stephens are on the same page with that one."
That guy isn’t even on the radar yet. I don’t want to mention him.
-Jeremy Stephens on Conor McGregor
Why has McGregor elicited such a reaction? Because he has trash-talked just about every relevant athlete in the UFC’s 135-pound division. Swanson and McGregor have gone back and forth on Twitter for almost a year. Even the soft-spoken Ricardo Lamas has bashed McGregor in the media recently, calling him a "loud mouth."
That’s an accurate assessment. McGregor is the engineer of his own hype train. He’s definitely talented, but has only fought twice in the UFC. His attitude, charisma and constant verbal undressing of his peers have garnered him a ton of attention. Plus, he seemingly has the entire country of Ireland behind him.
"I think the attention is great for the division," Swanson said. "It’s just up to the fans whether they’re going to buy into things. I think talent speaks for itself."
Was that a positive statement from a UFC featherweight about McGregor? It was darn close. As close as we’re probably going to get.
Gustafsson paved the way for Musoke
Nico Musoke working out for fans Thursday in San Antonio.
Nico Musoke and Alexander Gustafsson are good friends and training partners. But Gustafsson is also much more than that for Musoke.
"What he has done, he has really paved the way for the rest of us coming out of Sweden," Musoke said of his close confidant.
Musoke meets Kelvin Gastelum in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night on Saturday here at AT&T Center. It’s by far the biggest and most high-profile fight of the 28-year-old prospect’s career. Gastelum is ranked No. 11 in the UFC’s welterweight division, while the Swede is unranked.
It’s possible Musoke (12-2-1) wouldn’t even be here without Gustafsson and Allstars Training Center in Stockholm. Gustafsson put Swedish MMA on the map last September when he took UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, to the brink in a five-round classic.
"I, among others, thought [Gustafsson] won," Musoke said. "But that’s all in the past and I know he’s ready to leave no doubt the next time they meet."
That will be Sept. 27 at UFC 178. But before Musoke can even think about that, he’ll have his hands full with former Ultimate Fighter winner Gastelum on Saturday night.