Marc RaimondiESPN Staff Writer
LAS VEGAS — Conor McGregor walked out on stage, shook hands with UFC president Dana White and then turned to opponent Donald Cerrone. There was no pull-apart confrontation or bottles flying like previous promotional events. Instead, McGregor extended his hand and exchanged pleasantries with Cerrone.
That was how the rest of the UFC 246 prefight news conference went Wednesday at the Palms Resort Casino. There was very little trash talk, few barbs and more compliments than venom. At one point, McGregor complimented Cerrone’s python-skin jacket. Cerrone called McGregor “f—ing great.”
The environment and McGregor’s demeanor were in stark contrast to previous McGregor news conferences. When McGregor went up against Khabib Nurmagomedov, the insults were very personal. Against Nate Diaz, McGregor was fiery and intense. Now, more than 15 months after falling to Nurmagomedov by submission and looking for his first UFC win since 2016, McGregor was almost demure.
“It’s hard not to respect Donald right now at this stage,” McGregor said. “He has my respect. And although there will be blood spilled on Jan. 18, it will not be bad blood. And for the Mystic Mac prediction, it will be a KO.”
At a 2015 news conference, Cerrone and McGregor went at each other verbally even though they weren’t slated to fight. Cerrone chided McGregor for wanting to move up to his lightweight division. At the time, McGregor was competing at featherweight. Saturday’s fight is at welterweight — 15 pounds heavier than lightweight. Cerrone said he had changed his tune on McGregor.
“He did everything he said he was gonna do, didn’t he?” Cerrone said. “Any feelings? Yeah, he’s f—ing great man and I’m honored to share the thing with him.”
Cerrone even came to McGregor’s defense at one point in the news conference. A reporter asked McGregor about the New York Times report that he is being investigated for two alleged sexual assaults in his home country of Ireland.
“We’re here to talk about a fight, nothing he does outside of fighting,” Cerrone said.
Fans booed the reporter who asked McGregor about the investigations, and White further shut down the question saying McGregor “answered these questions yesterday on ESPN.” White said the allegations did not lead to any concern that McGregor vs. Cerrone would be in peril.
Also at the event, McGregor said he could fight again soon if things go well enough against Cerrone. “The Notorious” said he could potentially return March 7 at UFC 248 in Las Vegas, a card that does not currently have a main event. That would be the quickest turnaround of his UFC career.
“Yes,” McGregor said after being asked about UFC 248. “God willing, we come out safe from this bout here Saturday night. Most certainly, March would be well attainable.”
When asked about that, White said “anything is possible” and it would be determined following the fight with Cerrone on Saturday.
Who would be a potential UFC 248 opponent? A composed McGregor didn’t seem too concerned.
“Line them f—in’ up,” he said. “I couldn’t care. Any weight, any division. Any anything. I am in prime condition and ready to go.”