The more things change, the more they stay the same. That’s what UFC president Dana White told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto earlier this week about UFC superstar Conor McGregor. The 32-year-old returns to action on January 23 at UFC 257 and White said the biggest difference between this 2021 version of McGregor and the one that became the first-ever UFC “champ champ” back in 2016 was how he’s viewed by the general public.
“The biggest difference is back then he had a lot of detractors, a lot of people who thought he wasn’t this, that, that he wasn’t real, that he couldn’t wrestle…he’s proved everybody wrong,” White told ESPN.
Today, McGregor’s detractors focus on other things.
“Now, when he comes back [to fight], the questions are the guy is so rich and how hungry is he…”, White said.
— Kelsey McCarson (@kelsey_mccarson) January 12, 2021
But White believes McGregor is just as motivated today as he was a few years ago. The UFC boss believes that hasn’t always been the case over recent years, and McGregor has previously admitted the same thing.
“There’s nothing exciting or more fun than a motivated Conor McGregor,” White said.
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UFC 257: Poirier vs. McGregor 2
McGregor faces Dustin “The Diamond” Poirer at UFC 257 on January 23 in Abu Dhabi.
While McGregor stopped Poirier back in 2014 in less than two minutes, White believes the two fighters will match up nicely together in 2021.
“This is a completely different fight with the same people,” White said.
Still, White hopes to keep McGregor busy this year with plenty of top-level UFC fights, and White believes this “motivated” version of the Irishman is someone who will be able to compete at the highest levels of the sport.
“I’m always about the best fighting the absolute best,” White said. “Anybody who still thinks Conor McGregor isn’t one of the best fighters in the world, go back and look at what he did to ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone last year.”
McGregor stopped Cerrone in less than a minute last year at UFC 246. McGregor promises to do the same to Poirier later this month.
White stopped short of saying that, but the UFC president is ready to see what McGregor can do against one of the top 155-pound contenders in the sport at UFC 257.
“[McGregor] is one of the best, and this is a real fight,” White said.
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White and McGregor Cleared Air After Heated Dispute
Of course, another big difference between this 2021 McGregor and one from the recent past is his better relationship with White, at least better than the one that seemed to be boiling over in 2020.
Last year, McGregor briefly retired due to frustrations over not getting into the Octagon.
A few months later, the fighter released private text messages between the UFC superstar and White that showed McGregor offering to fight Diego Sanchez and White refusing the matchup.
“We should lose our (promoter’s) license if we make that fight,” White privately told McGregor.
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) September 25, 2020
But McGregor released that and more info to the world, and that didn’t sit very well with White.
“It wasn’t because he put our private messages [out]. [It was because] we were talking about another fighter. I like Diego Sanchez a lot, and I have a lot of respect for Diego Sanchez. And I care about Diego Sanchez. So I was very upset about that,” White said.
White worked through whatever issues all that might have caused with both fighters.
“I talked to Diego face-to-face about it. Being the great human being he is, [we’re] all good,” White said.
He did the same with McGregor.
“Conor and I fixed that. We talked, and we got through it. We’re in a good place now,” said White.
Now, White is excited to have McGregor back in the fold, both on a personal level and for his business.
Still, White reminded Okamoto that the two things never need to be sorted out in both areas in order for the UFC president to do business with a fighter.
“Me and everybody are always in a good place as far as business goes. Tito Ortiz fought here for years. We hated each other, and he fought here for years. Business is always good,” White said.
More than likely, that would especially be the case with someone like McGregor who has sold more pay-per-views than any other fighter in UFC history.
Still, White says he’s good with McGregor on both fronts.
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