McGregor on Miller, Brandao, UFC Dublin, Dustin Poirier not stepping up, the featherweight division and Aisling Daly

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On the verge of his main event showdown with Diego Brandao at UFC Dublin, the self-proclaimed king Conor McGregor spoke to PETER CARROLL about changing opponents, Diego Brandao, the fan fare around July 19th, Dustin Poirier not stepping up, the featherweight division and Ais “The Bash” Daly’s recent announcement as a TUF 20 cast member.

It was no surprise to Irish fans when Conor McGregor was announced as the main attraction for the UFC’s Dublin return. A local man with a fantastic skillset and a certain propensity to produce a conveyor belt of headlines every time he opens his mouth, the Straight Blast Gym charge certainly fit the bill.

Like a duck to water, McGregor took the UFC main event status in his stride and sang insults and promises of success at any given opportunity. Fight fans got caught up in the Irishman’s whirlwind to the extent that the changing of his opponent, from Cole Miller to Diego Brandao, had little or no impact on their anticipation for July 19th.

Despite spending a lot of time talking about Miller in the lead up to the bout, McGregor maintained that he didn’t designate any of his time specifically to “marketing” the original contest.

“I didn’t spend anytime marketing that fight,” he refuted, “I was just speaking my mind. There was no emotional investment in the fight. This is the fight business, people drop out all the time. I’ve experienced this throughout my career, I’m talking pre-UFC days.

“I’ve had people not show up at the airport, I’ve had people not show up at the weigh-ins and I’ve had people pull out at the very last minute. This is something I am accustomed to, but we carry on. It is what it is. An opponent dropped out, a new opponent is in – it makes no difference whatsoever.”

SBG head coach John Kavanagh revealed his opinion that a win against Brandao would bolster his featherweight’s stock more than one against Miller last month and McGregor agreed with his boss and highlighted why he thinks the Brazilian is a tougher challenge.

“I believe Diego Brandao is a bigger name than Cole Miller. He probably has some more impressive wins than Cole. He’s an Ultimate Fighter winner where Cole wasn’t, he’s a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and he’s got some nice knockouts on his record.

“If coach thinks that’s the way it is, I believe him, it’s true. It doesn’t matter who they put in front of me though, this is my show. A win against anyone here puts me in a great position,” he said.

Just back from his training camp in Iceland, McGregor discussed his preparation alongside team-mates Gunnar Nelson, Cathal Pendred and Paddy Holohan who are also set for action in The O2 on July 19th.

He said: “That was my third time over in Iceland, it’s a beautiful place. The people are great, the food is nice, it’s isolated and it’s away from everything. It just made sense for us to head over there with Gunni in the co-main event because everything is going crazy over here.”

He also highlighted the contrast between the laid back atmosphere of Mjolnir and the mania that awaited him on his return to the Irish capital.

“I swear to God, I only got home last night and when I went to the gym today there were 300 people there with cameras. This is the circus that is fight month. I just thought it was great to get over there to calm my mind and prepare my body.”

The former Cage Warriors double weight world champion admitted that he has begun to get used to his celebrity status and outlined how the attention he is getting goes hand in hand with his success in the Octagon.

“I think I’m getting a little bit more used to it,” said McGregor. “Again, this is all preparation, this is the life I have chosen. To reach the top level it must be like this. I’m just lapping it all up, I’m not getting too caught up in it. I’ll just carry on doing my thing and that’s that.”

With fans almost at fever pitch two weeks out from the UFC’s July return, the Dubliner revealed that he has had to factor in the enormous reception he is sure to get during his fight into his preparation.

“I’ve been trying to absorb it all. I’m not just focusing on the contest, I believe the contest is already a done deal. I’m thinking about the whole show. I’m looking forward to experiencing this historic event for Irish mixed martial arts.

“For everyone that’s been involved with the sport, they’ve waited for so long for the UFC to be finally back here, it’s going to be huge and I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.

The Crumlin man went on to claim he is “better than ever” after his ACL surgery and how he feels “complete” for the first time in his career.

“I learn from everything. I learn from my wins and I learn from my losses. I’ve grown from that and I feel complete right now. Everything has just aligned for this to be perfect. Everything feels perfect.

“There’s not a lot of people that can comeback from an ACL injury, there’s even a smaller amount that have comeback and been better than they were before, and that’s how I feel.”

Now with Miller out of the main event, McGregor is unsure whether Dustin Poirier will be in attendance at the Dublin show. The American is scheduled as his next opponent in a title eliminator bout, granted the Irishman’s success in Dublin, but the SBG product believes Poirier could’ve stepped in for Miller if he was really interested in fighting him.

“I haven’t got a clue about him, who cares about him? He’s supposed to be a top ten guy and this is a main event fight,” he berated Poirier. “He’s team-mates with Cole so he knew he was going to pull out. Did you hear him campaign for this fight?

“He could’ve main evented a UFC card, there’s only a few of these featherweights that have been the main event before. He’s trying to talk about earning stripes and shit like that, this is the main event of the fastest selling UFC event in history and when the injury happened there was silence from these people. I don’t dwell on these idiots, yeah?”

As for a prediction as to how his bout with Brandao will finish, “The Notorious” was direct and confident in his forecast:

“I believe I’m gonna stiffen him up early, in the first round anyway.”

Finally, asked to comment on the announcement of Aisling Daly as a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter 20, McGregor was full of praise for his 115 lbs team-mate.

“I believe she’ll do very well, I’m over the moon for Aisling. She’s been around for so long, she’s Ireland’s fighting lady now. She’s over there in Vegas, she’s competing on this Ultimate Fighter now.

“Her mind has been strong lately, really strong. She can go all the way and win that strap, no doubt. She’s in a great place over there and I’m really eager to hear how she’s getting on.”

@PetesyCarroll

Peter Carroll is Severe MMA's lead feature writer. He has been featured in many top publications and some rubbish ones too. He also writes for the Irish Daily Mirror and Vice's Fightland.