UFC 196 will mark Conor McGregor’s first Octagon foray at 170 pounds, and if things go well, the reigning featherweight king could be making even bigger moves in the division down the road.
Following Wednesday’s open workouts, McGregor told media that welterweight champion Robbie Lawler would be the ”leading option” for his next fight should he defeat Nate Diaz on Saturday. UFC President Dana White has no designs on slowing the Irishman’s momentum should that bout materialize.
“I’m open to whatever he’s considering doing. If he wants to fight at 170 and he wants to fight Robbie Lawler, Conor is tough to deny these days,” White said at a Thursday press conference in Las Vegas. “Nobody has ever done this, 145 pounds going to 170. And it’s one of those things where you talk about these guys when the money’s in the bank, other things are going on and they have all this opportunity, Conor really does step up and fight anybody anywhere anytime. It’s impressive, it’s fun and this is what makes you love the fight business.”
McGregor was initially scheduled to vie for lightweight gold at UFC 196 before champion Rafael dos Anjos pulled out of the event with a broken foot. By accepting the fight with Diaz, the SBG Ireland representative is bypassing 155 pounds entirely. While that might be considered a risk for someone who has yet to fight above featherweight in the UFC, McGregor says it’s all part of the job.
“There’s a lot of people that play it safe in the game. There’s many scared pussies in the fight game. They don’t take risks. People who don’t take risks will never climb to that next level,” McGregor said. “I take risks all the time. Every single fight I’ve taken a risk. And I continue to do so. The fans show up here every time. They pay their hard earn money to travel.
“People pull out of fights and the other opponent just scraps the whole card, only thinking about themselves while they sit in their comfortable home,” he continued. “They are happy to just let the card be flushed down the toilet. But me, I appreciate the fans’ support. I enjoy showing up and giving them a show and that’s it. And I love to fight.”
Facing new opponents on short notice has become the norm for McGregor, but according to White, the superstar fighter has never been fazed when the promotion needs to call an audible.
“As soon as we called Conor and told him dos Anjos was out, he said, ‘I’m going to the gym right now, I’ll fight anybody. Call me tomorrow and let me know what you’re thinking.’ And was the same thing we said when we walked into his house when Jose Aldo was out when he was here in Vegas,” White said. “He literally didn’t care. It’s very rare. You don’t see that , ever.”