Conor McGregor says he knew the UFC featherweight champ would pull out of their bout. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Long before Dana White appeared on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” to confirm that Jose Aldo had withdrawn from UFC 189, Conor McGregor had a notion that the Brazilian champion wouldn’t make it to Sin City.
In fact, as far back as January, before the featherweight title fight even had a date and venue, McGregor had his doubts that he and Aldo would ever go toe-to-toe in the Octagon.
“I’ve been contemplating it since long before the rib injury,” McGregor said during a Wednesday conference call to promote UFC 189. “As soon as the fight was announced I‘ve been contemplating. Like I said before, the eyes never lie. Every time I looked into that man’s eyes I saw fear; I saw glass. I anticipated he would not show up. It’s something I expected.
“I don’t blame the man. I was going to f--king butcher him, rip him limb from limb. So I probably wouldn’t want to face that either. It is what it is.”
As McGregor and Aldo squared off again and again during the UFC’s 12-day, 10-city international media tour this past spring, the Dublin native says he saw not a fearless champion, but a man looking for an exit strategy.
“When you look into a man’s eyes, when you look him dead in the eyes, you can see straight into his soul. No one else even watching can see it,” McGregor said. “It’s only between you and him. I looked into his eyes, and I knew: This motherf--ker doesn’t want to be here. He doesn’t want it the way I want it. So that was that.”
To his credit, Aldo played it out as long as he could, seeking multiple medical opinions on the rib injury he suffered in sparring last week. An initial report claimed it was broken, while the later UFC received its own medical confirmation of a bone bruise and cartilage injury. No matter which report one believed, it was likely that Aldo would have been far from 100 percent if he made it to fight night. The champion gave himself a Tuesday deadline, but he was ultimately unable to train, setting the stage for White to make his disappointing announcement on the Worldwide Leader.
Aldo’s misfortune was Chad Mendes’ gain, as the two-time featherweight title challenger agreed to take the spot opposite McGregor in the UFC 189 headliner. An interim title will be at stake, with Aldo expected to face the McGregor-Mendes winner upon his return. Considering the circumstances that led to Aldo’s exit, McGregor believes that he and Mendes will be vying for the division’s undisputed crown -- no matter what the promotion might say.
“He has p---ied out time and time again. He’s pulled out of contests time and time again. I mean, the medical reports state that he is fit to fight. So there’s no more question,” McGregor said. “You’re fit to fight and you’re not gonna fight. The belt rightfully should be stripped and this is for the real featherweight belt.”
Should McGregor defeat Mendes, he knows that unfinished business will remain. However, despite all the time and money spent on the promotion of their bout, the “Notorious” Irishman isn’t so sure that his Brazilian rival will ever be ready.
“If he mans up, we should most certainly get it on,” McGregor said. “But I don’t know whether he will be back. Like I said, he’s gone running, and I don’t think he’ll be back.”