Can the fight match the war of words?
If it does, Conor McGregor and Chad Mendes may author one of the more entertaining title fights in Ultimate Fighting Championship history.
McGregor and Mendes will take to the Octagon Saturday (10 p.m. start of card, 11:40 start of main event, Pay-Per-View) at the MGM Grand to determine the UFC's interim featherweight champion, and during a conference call last week the UFC 189 headliners took opportunities to insult each other.
Naturally, the verbal fireworks were launched by the loquacious McGregor (17-2).
"People are showing up to see me," McGregor said. The card has been built around McGregor, ever since he defeated Dennis Siver in Boston on Jan. 18 before confronting UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, who was sitting cageside at the TD Garden.
UFC formally announced the Aldo-McGregor title fight in March, but the highly anticipated bout collapsed in June when it was revealed Aldo had sustained fractured ribs during training camp.
"It doesn’t matter whether it’s Jose or Chad," McGregor said. "I mean, it would have been nice if Jose didn’t [back] out but we’ll take the substitute, we’ll take the B-level guy and we’ll still break records with this."
McGregor, who mocked Aldo in a series of press conferences spanning North and South America, and Europe, claimed he prepared for the initial fight to fall apart.
"I'd been contemplating it since long before the rib injuries," McGregor said. "As soon as the fight was announced I've been contemplating it. Like I said before, the eyes never line and every time I looked into that man's eyes, I saw fear, I saw glass. So I anticipated he would not show and when got his opportunity to pull [out of the fight], he pulled [out]. So it's something I expected. I don't blame the man. I was going to butcher him, rip him limb from limb. I probably wouldn't want to face that, either.
"He's pulled out of contests time and time again, I mean the medical reports state that he is fit to fight. So there's no more question. You're fit to fight, and you're not going to fight. The belt rightfully should be stripped, and this is for the real featherweight belt."
A member of the California-based Team Alpha Male, Mendes is 17-2-0 and harbors a particular distaste for his opponent Saturday night due to an uncouth joke McGregor cracked at his expense.
"I have a lot of fans, a lot of family, a lot of friends, people that are rooting for me," Mendes said "A lot of people want to see me destroy Conor.
"I've been preparing for Conor McGregor since the first time I [saw] this dude fight in the UFC. What I knew was, he's going to talk his way up to the top. He beat every person they put in front of him. It's time for me to get in there and do what I've trained for my entire life, and that's become the champion."
Mendes' strength is his wrestling. But will his greatest skill set be offset by McGregor's striking?
As one might suspect, the two disagree.
"I just look at his past performance and I feel he is in the wrong weight division," McGregor said. "I feel he gasses too quick. That's what I see happening. I see exchanges early, I see him gasping for breath, and I see me butchering his facial structure out there until I take the victory."
And Mendes' rebuttal?
"You know, this is a fight game. This is something somebody could seriously get injured. And that's what I'm looking to do when I get in there against Conor McGregor."