The stars of UFC 205 gathered in Madison Square Garden for the Press Conference ahead of the UFC’s debut in the Empire State. The event is one of the most highly anticipated events in UFC history with four champions on the card contesting three titles. The event began with a curtain raising to unveil all of the fighters and UFC President Dana White at once. Such was White’s obvious enthusiasm that he forgot to announce in his introduction a lightweight fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Michael Johnson had also been added to the card.
Eddie Alvarez will defend his 155 pound lightweight title against Ireland’s own ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor who will attempt to become the first fighter in UFC history to hold the title at two weight divisions. The fight has become more mouth-watering following a perceived disrespect between Alvarez’s coach Mark Henry and McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh. ‘I feel of all the divisions I have ran around and ran through, 155 will be the one I feel most comfortable about (ruling)’ was McGregor’s first soundbyte following a question about his plans after the bout with Alvarez. McGregor assumed his ‘Mystic Mac’ mantra to foresee a first round knockout, after being warned to ‘be careful’ by Philadelphia’s first UFC champion. McGregor identified the historical contribution that the Irish have had upon New York when he exclaimed how happy he was to bring the Irish to New York, the ‘town that we (the Irish) built’.
When asked about his supposedly injured foot McGregor identified his current condition as ‘brand new’ and that his foot had only previously been ‘bruised’ following his UFC 202 rematch with Nate Diaz. McGregor’s optimistic mindset was evident when he proclaimed that he will wrap both belts around each shoulder, and it will take an army to remove both. A war of words ensued as both champions attempted to win the war of words that preceeds every McGregor fight. Alvarez attempted to stoke McGregor’s fire by stating that the Irish man was ‘the easiest fight in the division’. McGregor stated Alvarez’s previous performance was ‘sloppy’ and that he is ‘lucky’ to be champion. Alvarez continuously attempted to get under McGregor’s skin by questioning the qualifications of McGregor’s coach, the Irish man’s need for two Jiu Jitsu coaches and the $300,000 camp McGregor organised ahead of UFC 202.
Alvarez questioned McGregor’s ability to ‘come back from adversity’ and highlighted an eight minute window after which Conor would quit. Alvarez described how he would make use of his boxing against McGregor when asked if he would make use of his grappling to nullify McGregor’s boxing. McGregor ruled out Aldo and Edgar, and said he would sit back and observe how the Featherweight division worked out. Alvarez retorted that McGregor would lose both the ‘little boy’ and the ‘big boy’ belts. McGregor blew away Jeremy Stephens’ claim to be ‘the hardest hitting fighter at 145’ by questioning Stephen’s identity as a legitimate contender.
The last question of the conference was more of a statement from an American McGregor fan who turned Alvarez’s claim that McGregor wouldn’t last five rounds back upon Alvarez himself, with the Pennsylvania-born 1-1 in fights that went to the finish following twenty- five minutes. It appears McGregor’s skill at mind games has even spread to his devoted following.
Tyron Woodley’s first welterweight title defense after defeating Robbie Lawler at UFC 201, will be against the dynamic Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson. When addressing the media, Woodley enjoyed the negative response. The crowd in attendance were cheering ‘Wonderboy’ throughout Woodley’s responses. When addressed, ‘Wonderboy’ said he did not look past Woodley previously and that he only identified Lawler as his next opponent as he held the belt at the time.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk will defend her title against fellow Polish fighter Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Jedrzejczyk received a huge ovation when announced, and went on to highlight how the fight is a big one for Poland, and for the Polish people now residing in the USA. Kowalkiewicz described how she is ‘ready’ and she wishes to contend against ‘the best in the world’. As always a face-off featuring ‘Joanna Champion’ was the most intense.
Outside of the title fights fans will witness a fight with huge ramifications for the middleweight division: a fight that would easily headline any other UFC card this year. Former middleweight champion Chris Weidman faces perennial contender Yoel Romero in his first outing in the UFC octagon since losing his title to Luke Rockhold and then a neck surgery that ruled him out of a rematch with Rockhold. Weidman was cheered by his hometown crowd when addressed the audience. He said an appearance at the garden was ‘a dream come through’ for a New Yorker, and he has envisioned (fighting in NY) for a long time. When asked about how he feels his New York team-mates will not be competing on the maiden New York card, Weidman exclaimed that he was disappointed but they would be able to fight there in the future. Weidman discussed his hopes to hold his first title defence, should he defeat Romero and the holder of the belt in 2017, again in MSG, ‘in his own back yard’.
Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone highlighted his excitement ahead of fighting in New York ahead of his bout against Kelvin Gastelum at welterweight. He commented on his comfort at 170, but would not rule out a fight against McGregor at 155.
New Jersey native Frankie Edgar highlighted how it would be ‘a dream come true’ to fight ‘at the world’s most famous arena’, Jeremy Stephens identified how he seeks to beat Edgar in his own home town.
The press conference concluded with the fighters facing off, and one thing is for sure, UFC fans around the world simply CAN’T WAIT for the promotions NYC debut in November.
If you missed it, here’s the replay.