When Conor McGregor steps in the ring to make his boxing debut against undefeated five-weight world champion Floyd Mayweather on Saturday, he will in some ways be carrying the flag for the UFC and its roster of mixed martial artists.
He is even using the organization’s world class training center in Southwest Las Vegas to conduct his training camp.
That could potentially make for some awkward moments considering after the fight is over some of the other fighters in the gym may be future opponents.
Las Vegan Kevin Lee is on top of that list. He learned last week he would fight Tony Ferguson for the UFC interim lightweight title on Oct. 7 at T-Mobile Arena. McGregor holds the lightweight belt, so a win by Lee would likely set up a huge money fight for him against McGregor should he choose to return to the UFC after collecting a potential nine-figure check for the fight against Mayweather.
Lee is confident he will get a chance to step in the cage against McGregor.
“I’m going to get the fight for sure,” he said in the lobby of the UFC Performance Institute just hours after McGregor had wrapped up a late-night sparring session in the second-floor boxing ring.
Lee said he has encountered McGregor at the facility, but the champion has tried to keep his distance.
“He knows what the deal is,” Lee said of McGregor. “Conor tries to keep that mystique about him. He comes in with a lot of dudes and he kind of has that glare, but I’m just a real (expletive) dude. I don’t put up with any of that (expletive).
”When I look at him, he just knows. I don’t do all the smoke and mirrors with all of that stuff. At the end of the day, it’s just going to be me and him in there and that’s it.”
Lee, who has trained with Mayweather in the past but wasn’t called in for this fight camp, said he believes McGregor is the interim champ and his bout against Ferguson is for the actual belt.
“Conor don’t want no smoke,” Lee said. “There’s a reason these dudes don’t put my name in their mouth. Conor will talk about everybody under the sun and their mama. He’s out busy fighting retired fighters, dudes that are old enough to be my pops. And I have respect for Floyd, but you’re walking in there with a different beast when you talk about a young, hungry champion as opposed to retired, old lion. It will be a drastic change for him (when he fights me).”
Lee does at least give McGregor a chance to win on Saturday night. Based on some of what he has heard from around Mayweather’s camp, he thinks the undefeated boxer may be underestimating McGregor.
“I have to be honest, when it first was established I thought Conor didn’t stand a chance,” Lee said. “Like not a chance. But the closer it gets, that percentage is kind of creeping up a bit.
”He’s still going to get his (expletive) whooped, but I’m saying he might stand a better chance than I thought at first. I’m just not liking the approach in Floyd’s training camp and it’s making me a little nervous about betting the house on Floyd.”
The 24-year-old Lee will put his five-fight winning streak on the line at UFC 216.
dos Santos responds
Former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos is maintaining his innocence after he was pulled from a scheduled UFC 215 bout against Francis Ngannou because of a potential USADA violation.
“Soon everything will be clear to all of you and no doubt, truth will prevail,” dos Santos said in Portugese in a video posted to his Facebook page. “I just want to say that this situation is very tough for me, my team, and my family. And I would never cheat. It goes against everything I stand for. I play the fair game. We will get to the bottom of this, figure out what happened, learn from it, and move on.”
His manager, Ana Claudia Guedes, said in a statement an out-of-competition test came back positive for the diuretic Hydrochlorothiazide, which is banned due to its use as a masking agent.
She said a process is underway to test all of his supplements and medications to determine whether there was any contamination.
UFC officials have been working to find a replacement opponent for Ngannou on the UFC 215 card, which is scheduled for Sept. 9 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Stann steps away
UFC color commentator Brian Stann announced he has decided to leave the broadcast booth to pursue opportunities in the business world.
He will pursue an MBA at Northwestern and has accepted an executive position with a real estate firm.
Stann, a former fighter who was awarded the Silver Star for heroism on the battlefield, also played football at Navy and has political ambitions.
Contact Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-277-8028. Follow @adamhilllvrj on Twitter.
Aug. 22: Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series (Fight Pass), TUF Gym
Aug. 25: Bellator 182 (Spike), Vernon, New York
Aug. 29: Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series (Fight Pass), TUF Gym
Aug. 31: Invicta 25 (Fight Pass), LeMoore, California
Sept. 2: UFC Fight Night 115 (Fight Pass), Rotterdam, Netherlands