Conor McGregor accused Khabib Nurmagomedov of being “petrified” as he insisted his rivalry with the Russian will not end after this weekend’s grudge bout at UFC 229.
McGregor is set to end a near two-year hiatus from the octagon at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday night against the person who succeeded him as UFC lightweight champion.
The pair were set to face off at a news conference, open to the public, at 3pm local time on Thursday but McGregor’s late arrival at Park Theater led to a prompt Nurmagomedov conducting his media duties before walking out.
Nurmagomedov was once again barracked by a largely pro-McGregor crowd, as he had been at Wednesday’s open workouts, and the Irishman suggested that may have been one of the reasons his foe refused to hang around.
McGregor, who blamed Las Vegas traffic when he turned up 10 minutes after Nurmagomedov had departed, said: “He knew what he signed up for, I’ve been later than this.
“The traffic is a little heavy, there must be a McGregor fight going on. (But) I did not plan this, I tried to get here.
Conor McGregor is returning to the UFC this weekend after a near two-year hiatus (Scott Heavey/PA)
“I’m only a couple of minutes late. He should have stayed put. He doesn’t want to be around me, he doesn’t want to be around these people. He is petrified.
“My heart is black towards this man, towards his team, towards his people, I can truly see the inside of that man’s head and smile.
“I don’t give a f*** about him or his people. There is way deeper s*** than just a fight on Saturday night.”
The animosity between the pair memorably escalated in April when McGregor threw a hand truck at a bus carrying several UFC fighters, including Nurmagomedov, who won the vacant lightweight title just a couple of days later.
The incident was an apparent retaliation to McGregor’s friend and training partner Artem Lobov having an alleged confrontation with Nurmagomedov.
McGregor, who was stripped of the 155lb crown because he had not fought since winning the belt in November 2016, believes their forthcoming showdown will not resolve anything.
“I plan on knocking that man’s nose straight into the nosebleeds,” McGregor said. “I am coming to put a hole in this man’s skull.
“There will never be peace here. I always say you should aim for peace but if you can’t aim for peace, aim between the eyes. I’m going to aim right between that man’s eyes and this is never over. Never, ever, ever over.”
Nurmagomedov admitted the first defence of his title is not just business for him.
He said: “For me this is more than defending my title. For me it’s personal.”
Nurmagomedov has a mixed martial arts record of 26-0 and is prepared to go to extreme lengths to remain unbeaten in his professional career, saying: “He has to kill me to stop me.”
As for McGregor’s tardiness, he added: “I don’t need to wait for nobody. This is 3pm, the fans are here, media are here, everybody is here.
“If somebody is late, this is not my problem. I don’t think about him. I have a schedule, 3pm I am here. I have to make weight and worry about myself.”