UFC 229 Fight Week Diary Day #4: Nurmagomedov bolts as the temperature simmers

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LAS VEGAS — Perhaps we were all expecting too much, but the final UFC 229 pre-fight press conference featuring Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov didn’t live up to expectations.

Walking through the Park MGM casino floor in the morning there were fans queuing at 7am, a full eight hours ahead of the press conference’s kick-off time, just to make sure they were front row and centre for what we all expected to be the moment the UFC 229 fight week really took off with McGregor and Nurmagomedov going toe-to-toe on the mic.

Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. Nurmagomedov looked emotional as he walked onto the stage at exactly 3pm and demanded the press conference get underway. UFC President Dana White looked like he was also caught off-guard and let the Russian dictate his own terms as he fielded questions from the press for 15 minutes before leaving.

It was a somewhat chaotic scene inside the theatre. Nurmagomedov clearly didn’t want to be there while everyone else in the building was praying for McGregor to just turn up and get the ball rolling. When Nurmagomedov left, the venue’s atmosphere drained. McGregor’s presence alone was enough to rally the fans, but not having the two of them on stage together left those in attendance disappointed.

While it was enjoyable to hear McGregor speak for 25 minutes across a variety of subjects, it felt like a random Q&A session and not a pre-fight press conference to help sell more pay-per-views.

You can’t help but feel that a lot of money was left on the table yesterday. White was previously talking about the fight trending 3-3.5 million PPV buys but yesterday that number would’ve taken a dent. The presser fundamentally didn’t do what we all wanted it to and that was just to produce some more sparks and a fiery staredown for all the sports and news networks to run and capture the imagination of the casual MMA fan wondering whether to buy the fight on Saturday or not.

The temperature is still simmering here, but it could explode later on when they go face-to-face one last time at the T-Mobile Arena at the ceremonial weigh-ins.

Of course, both fighters have to make weight first, so let’s not jinx anything.

Jim Edwards

Jim Edwards

Jim Edwards is a UK based MMA journalist who has been covering the sport for 5 years. You can find his work in Fighters Only on a monthly basis.