At UFC 189 just two weeks ago, Conor McGregor became only the second fighter in history to topple Chad Mendes while also winning his first UFC title as the new interim featherweight champion of the world.
McGregor fought through a valiant effort from Mendes, who took the fight on short notice after champion Jose Aldo was forced to withdraw with an injured rib just two weeks before the show.
The matchup with Mendes allowed McGregor to answer many of his biggest critics when it came to dealing with an American wrestler who could put him on the mat and prove whether or not he could get up again. Mendes took McGregor down four times over two rounds, but as soon as the Irish featherweight stood up from the last takedown, he pummeled the wrestler with strikes and finished the fight before reaching the 10-minute mark.
Article continues below ...
It would seem McGregor proved how he matches up with an elite featherweight, possibly the best wrestler in the division, and still managed to walk out with a second-round TKO, but that hasn’t stopped critics from pointing out that he still gave up four takedowns.
McGregor answered that charge while appearing on ESPN’s "SportsCenter" on Friday night, saying he dismantled Mendes and systematically destroyed him in less than two rounds. The takedowns, according to McGregor, were nothing more than a change of position and had no bearing on the outcome of the fight.
"To the naked eye it seemed like a tough contest and I get a giggle out of listening to supposed experts in the field of fighting when they speak of his two-week training camp or his lack of preparation. To the trained eye, you understand what you are witnessing. You are witnessing ruthless bodywork. Ruthless body shooting where I teeped him into his windpipe, I cracked him into his ribs and every time those shots dug in deep, they take rounds out of you. There’s no coming back from clean, clean bodywork," McGregor explained.
"It can render you useless. That’s what happened. He came out, I butchered his body, I rearranged his intestines and stayed safe on the bottom when we were in those positions. I elbowed the top of his crown. I done damage and remained efficient and then I rose to my feet, went back to work on the body and this his body gave up at that time and then I punched his jaw across his face."
McGregor said he was confident he would come away victorious before ever stepping foot in the Octagon for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that he knew Mendes would try to get the takedowns. One of the biggest criticisms of McGregor since joining the UFC was that he hadn’t faced a prolific wrestler, so Mendes was the person to finally test his takedown defense.
Jose’s a scared little man who did not show up to fight and set under his covers praying for Chad Mendes to win. His whole team were praying for Chad to win so he would not have to face me but his prayers went unanswered and I dominated and won.
— Conor McGregor
Admittedly, McGregor struggled to stop the takedowns, but ultimately it didn’t matter because he still got back to his feet, he still landed the knockout blow, and he did it all in less than two rounds.
"It just reiterates what I know: that there is many, many bums in this business that do not understand the true meaning of fighting," McGregor said. "I feel like a lot of these people are brought up on sport fighting where to score a point or to gain an advantage is a victory. I was brought up where if I do not defend these strikes from these six individuals who are attacking me in this situation, I will not live to see another day. So that is my upbringing versus their upbringing where they score a takedown and it’s a success.
"I felt he ended the contest and all he wanted was to get a takedown. For him and the American fans and his team, they just wanted to see that takedown. That was victory for them. But it is not victory. In a fight to the death, a takedown means absolutely nothing."
McGregor also answered claims that UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta criticized the Irish featherweight for trash talking Mendes while they were fighting. McGregor first explained why he was talking so much and what he was saying to Mendes during some of their most heated exchanges.
"When I spoke to him I said ‘Let’s see who takes a back step now, let’s see who takes the first back step now when that bell rings’ and then the bell rang and he didn’t come out of his corner. I marched across, I cracked him with a spinning back kick, I lit him up on the feet and then I spoke to him," McGregor said. "That’s when I began my ruthless bodywork. I could sense after the first teep to the gut that it was done; it took the wind out of his sails and I spoke to him.
"I said ‘Are you done already?’ Then the fight progressed and he panicked into a takedown and he scored a takedown and in his mind that was all he needed and he was trying to throw me shots and I was speaking to him — ‘You hit like a girl, you hit like a little girl,’ and every time he would throw a shot and it would glance I would say ‘No’ and that was it. I was having fun in there."
As far as Fertitta saying that McGregor was talking too much, the new UFC champion isn’t backing down from what he did in the Octagon that night or what he’ll do in his next fight against Aldo. It’s part of what makes McGregor such an attraction whenever he fights and that’s good business for everybody.
"I will handle my business as I feel fit and Lorenzo’s my business partner and we have a phenomenal relationship. But I do not tell him how to run the UFC, so he should not tell me how to run the fight game. Not yet I don’t tell him how to run the UFC, mind you," McGregor said with a smile.
Fertitta might not want to change much of what McGregor is doing if the numbers he confirmed during the interview prove to be true.
According to the Irish fighter, UFC 189 was a huge moneymaker for the promotion with some of the largest gate figures in MMA history not to mention breaking the mythical one million pay-per-view mark, which rarely has been done in the nearly 200 events the organization has held over the years.
"The previous fight was the biggest event in UFC history," McGregor said. "$7.2 million gate, cleared one million pay-per-view buys, it slots very high on the list of MGM (Grand Garden Arena) gates, just below Mike Tyson against (Francois) Botha and just above Floyd Mayweather versus Juan Manuel Marquez. It also beat that pay-per-view number, so that was a tremendous event, one of the biggest if not the biggest in UFC history.
"We don’t go backwards. We always go forward. That’s what my business partner Mr. Lorenzo Fertitta always says — you don’t stay in the same spot, you move up levels. So the next level will be a big football stadium, which is in discussion."
McGregor knows he’s once again going to be matched up with Aldo to unify the UFC featherweight title, but he’s still not sure when or where the fight will happen.
McGregor says Aldo became the biggest Mendes fan in history ahead of UFC 189, and when the fight ended with the Irishman holding the title high, the incumbent champion already was quaking in his boots.
"I am now the world champion. You claim it’s interim champion, but Jose went running. Jose’s a scared little man who did not show up to fight and sat under his covers praying for Chad Mendes to win. His whole team were praying for Chad to win so he would not have to face me but his prayers went unanswered and I dominated and won," McGregor said.
"Now I am the featherweight world champion of the UFC and we will schedule a fight against Jose in the future and we will see what way it plays out. Hopefully, he stops running and mans up and let’s do this damn fight."