(Warning: Strong language used in below video.)
NEW YORK – On the night that his countryman, Michael Conlan, sold out The Theater at Madison Square Garden and won his pro debut by a one-sided third-round stoppage of Tim Ibarra, UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor stole the show once again.
McGregor flew to New York on St. Patrick’s Day to walk Conlan, the Irish Olympian best known for flipping off the judges and tweeting to Russian President Vladimir Putin after losing in the Olympic quarterfinals, to the ring.
But after Conlan’s victory, McGregor stormed to press row and got into the face of ESPN.com boxing writer Dan Rafael.
He ranted at Rafael, who like many in boxing has picked Floyd Mayweather to defeat McGregor, and predicted a knockout of Mayweather in their much-discussed bout.
“You’re the boxing guy?” McGregor said to Rafael, who like many reporters at the time was interviewing Top Rank’s Bob Arum.
When Rafael replied, “I’m the boxing guy,” McGregor went off.
“I’m the boxing guy,” he said. “Watch me take over boxing, trust me on that. No one in this boxing game knows what’s coming. Trust me on that. I’m going to step in there and shock the whole goddamn world. Trust me on that.
“Look me in the eyes, 28 years of age, confident as a [expletive], long, rangy, dangerous with every hand. Trust me, I’m going to stop Floyd and you’re all going to eat your words. The whole world is going to eat their words.”
Someone asked McGregor when the fight would happen. Without averting his gaze at Rafael, McGregor said, “It’s getting close. Don’t worry about it. You’ll hear about it. I’m out of here.”
With that, he stormed off to a St. Patrick’s Day party he is hosting.
He stole some of the shine from Conlan, who signed with Top Rank after the Olympics precisely because of his reaction.
Arum hadn’t been seriously interested in Conlan until seeing what he did after losing to Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin. He gave a double-middle-finger salute to the judges, blasted them mercilessly in interviews and then tweeted to Putin, “How much they charge you, bro?”
Arum then became interested and loved that spunk. He noted that most athletes would have responded in a sportsmanlike manner, even though they felt differently.
“He did what I would have done,” Arum said. “I would have said, ‘[Expletive] you!’ You bet I would have done that. He was upset and he’d gotten screwed and he said what he thought.”
Conlan made his share of mistakes, but the atmosphere was electric and Arum took the chance to knock Showtime and HBO.
“Isn’t it short-sighted that there is not one network in this country that would pick up this fight for reasons only they can see?” Arum said. “Now, that’s hurting boxing. Their narrow-minded thinking, particularly of the premium networks. They have no vision, no idea what the public would like to see.
“This fight, this show with this kid, with the build-up and everything, the audience, was theater. It was entertainment. Was it a great fight? Of course not, but it was a really good show. And for it not to be covered … And if any one of them said, ‘We want to cover it, I would have charged them [nothing].’”
But even though Conlan was the star of the show, McGregor clearly stole it.