Conor McGregor said he battled through injuries at UFC 189. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
No matter how thrilling UFC 189 might have been, the event will always be remembered for in part for who wasn’t there.
Millions of dollars were spent promoting a featherweight title clash between Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor, only for Aldo to withdraw from the contest less than two weeks out due to a broken rib. The UFC’s backup plan was a pretty good one, though, as McGregor was paired with hard-hitting wrestler Chad Mendes with an interim belt at stake.
The cocksure Irishman passed the test with flying colors, scoring a technical knockout triumph over Mendes 4:57 into the second round at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday night. Still, McGregor could not avoid queries about a showdown with Aldo, which looms even larger in light of the Dublin native’s most recent triumph.
“I’m going to put Jose at a distant memory right now because I don’t think he deserves to be spoken about here,” McGregor said. “He didn’t show up. This was the event that we built. He should have made that walk, and respect to Chad for making that walk and showing up. In my opinion, Jose’s done. If it [the fight] comes back around, we’ll discuss it then. Right now this is my night, this is Ireland’s night.”
Perhaps McGregor was reluctant to show sympathy for Aldo’s injury because he entered the Octagon with an undisclosed ailment of his own. That was a prominent rumor in the days leading up to UFC 189, and “Notorious” did nothing to quell that speculation by vaguely addressing his own health on the press conference dais.
“I’m just gonna let that be in the past because there’s no point in bringing anything up in my mind,” he said. “Just know that I had a hell of a lot more wrong with me than a bruised rib, and I still showed up.”
Aldo’s withdrawal seemed to strike a nerve with McGregor, who was well aware of how much was invested in their matchup.
“When Jose pulled and didn’t mention nothing about the fans and then starts supporting Chad, and they were weird little buddies…that left a bad, bad taste in my mouth,” McGregor said. “I couldn’t do that. I showed up to fight. I respect the people that have sacrificed a lot of their money, their time to make this trip to support the event.”
And support it they did. A packed MGM Grand was clearly pro-McGregor, and UFC President Dana White was downright giddy when it came to discussing the pay-per-view and gate figures the event generated. As the primary reason for such a successful evening, McGregor wasn’t interested in sharing the spotlight. Talk of a big-ticket showdown with Aldo can wait. After months of exhausting work, McGregor just wants a little time to savor his latest accomplishment.
“I will talk [about Aldo eventually],” he said. “Right now, tonight I’m gonna toast good business, and it was damn good business.”