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'The people who believe in me and support me, they deserve better and I wish to give them that'

Conor McGregor ends his 15-month UFC absence this weekend.

Conor McGregor during his interview with ESPN.
Conor McGregor during his interview with ESPN.
Image: ESPN

CONOR McGREGOR HAS described 2019 as “a learning year” ahead of his comeback fight in Las Vegas this weekend.

McGregor hasn’t competed since October 2018, but several brushes with the law kept his name in the headlines over the past 15 months.

The Dubliner will face American veteran Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone in a welterweight bout at UFC 246 at the T-Mobile Arena in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Acknowledging that he has “made mistakes”, McGregor was keen to convey the message that he has learned valuable lessons from the recent controversies he was at the centre of when he gave a lengthy interview to ESPN in advance of his return to the octagon.

The former two-division UFC champion was arrested in Miami last March and charged with “strong arm robbery and criminal mischief” following an alleged altercation with a fan. 

Relating to a separate incident which took place in August, he was later ordered to pay a fine of €1,000 after pleading guilty to the assault of a man in a Dublin pub.

“A year of figuring out myself and my situation,” McGregor said of 2019. “2020, the year of perfect vision.”

He added: “I let people down and that’s it. You must take control of things and not shy away from things. I’ve never done that in my career and I never will do it.

“It is what it is, it’s part of the life. Sometimes it got a bit on top of me and then I reacted, but no more. I had to go to that point. Look at where it led me, reacting to disrespect and these type of things. I’ve learned some valuable lessons in this that I’m very thankful for, and I will use them going forward.”

conor-mcgregor-court-case Conor McGregor leaving Dublin District Court in November. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Despite the aforementioned incidents, McGregor insisted that there was never a time when he worried if his career as a professional fighter might no longer be salvageable.

“I was there, my training was flawless,” he said. “I was in phenomenal condition, I just had a few little slip-ups and they cost me. I ended up in a damn cell. It just slipped away from me. But I was in a phenomenal place then also.

“I knew I’d get back. Sometimes certain things need to happen for you to kind of get things right. That’s what happened to me and here I am.”

McGregor’s last outing resulted in a fourth-round submission defeat to UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. He revealed that having consumed alcohol during the build-up to that fight, he has abstained as he prepares to take on Cerrone. 

“The support of the people means a lot to me,” he said. “I do this to entertain the people. This is for my fans and the people who believe in me.

“Not so much anything that has gone on, but my lack of commitment. I think the people who believe in me and support me, they deserve better and I wish to give them that. I will and I am.”

Ahead of his 12th fight for the premier organisation in mixed martial arts, McGregor — who boasts an overall professional MMA record of 21 wins and four losses — is adamant that he’s never been in better shape.

conor-mcgregor McGregor entering the octagon before his defeat to Khabib Nurmagomedov. Source: USA Today Sports/Stephen R. Sylvanie/INPHO

“I listened to myself in what I needed to do in my training set-up and outside of the gym, and I executed them,” he said. “I followed what I said to myself that I needed to do. It’s given me energy, it’s given me focus, and I’m happy now.

“I knew the things I should have been doing and the things I shouldn’t have been doing, and I still did them and didn’t do them. But now I’m listening to myself and I’ve followed my internal instruction. It’s just given me more passion, more focus and more drive. I’m doing what I feel I need to do and it feels good.

“I’m even better than who I was. Everyone says ‘we miss the old Conor’, or the 2016 Conor or 2015 Conor, but I feel I’m better than that now. I’m mature. I’ve come full circle. I’ve experienced everything in this business. I’m just an experienced individual, I know what I need to do and I’m doing it.”

Although he claimed that he expects to earn in the region of $80 million from this weekend’s fight, McGregor dismissed the suggestion that financial rewards are his main source of motivation. 

After such a lengthy lay-off, he’s planning for a busy 2020 during which he hopes to fight three times or possibly more.

He said: “This is not for money for me. No amount of money will stop my hunger for this, my hunger to compete and entertain, and to live my life the way I want to live it and the way I enjoy living it.

the-canadian-press-2019-09-14 Donald Cerrone provides the opposition in Conor McGregor's comeback fight. Source: JONATHAN HAYWARD

“Too much money and without an awareness of it in the past can be dangerous. There’s no limits, there’s no boundaries. You can do anything, you can go anywhere.

“I know what I want to do and what I enjoy doing. This is what I enjoy doing so I’m going to keep doing it. Now I’m doing it full-steam ahead and I’m in the best shape of my life, mental and physical.

“It’s for the love. I absolutely love the game.”

He added: “I’ve just got to stay focused outside of the gym. That’s it.”

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About the author:

Paul Dollery

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