UFC fans have assimilated, maybe even warmed, to bad boy Conor McGregor’s (18-2-0) braggadocios ways and how he hypes every one of his bouts. Except this go round, the Irish interim featherweight champion is employing a different inner and outer mantra prior to his title bout with Jose Aldo (25-1-0) on Saturday night.
During Wednesday’s press conference leading up to UFC 194 at MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, the 27-year-old didn’t direct any of his typical vitriol towards Aldo and barely even looked at Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert. Instead McGregor emitted a far more relaxed demeanor, compared to his antics before he and Aldo were originally scheduled to fight at UFC 189 in July.
"I am in a state of Zen," McGregor told reporters. "The closer the fight gets . . . the face becomes blank. There is no face. It's just blank, and a fresh body type."
McGregor even alluded to a more calm-before-the storm mindset as he seeks his 14th straight victory, 16th career knockout, and solidification of the belt he claimed on an interim basis from Chad Mendes. Against Mendes, McGregor was a -175 favorite, and won the match with a second-round TKO.
"Back in the world tour, it was a different time," he said. "I acted true to myself in the moment. Now is a new time. Now, war is upon us. So, I am calm, cold, moodless, and ready to take out the body that is in front of me."
McGregor did at least allow a bit of his old self to creep out, claiming he intends to end the bout in the first round and that he may have spies embedded in Aldo’s camp. However, Aldo, who returns to the octagon after more than a year away, is unlike any other opponent McGregor has faced in his first six fights at the UFC level and mind games haven’t seemingly affected his confidence or preparation.
The 29-year-old Aldo has succumbed to defeat in more than 10 years, and his quick striking capabilities blended with his grappling and martial arts background are poignant reasons why he can drag McGregor into the later rounds.
Aldo showed he can at least trade a verbal barb or two with McGregor.
"That's not a problem, his spies must be telling him I'm going to go in there and win the fight," Aldo said. "So, I'm very easy about that."
The betting public still views McGregor as the favorite to outright rule the featherweight division, but his odds have taken a hit recently. McGregor is a -130 favorite, slightly down from -145, compared to Aldo improving from +115 to even, according to Bovada.lv.
In January, Aldo was listed as the favorite at -140 with McGregor at +100.