Conor McGregor fight weeks often bring the same things: late arrivals to media obligations, trash-talk directed at his opponent and a heated face-off that requires UFC president Dana White to step in and keep the fighters separated.
But things were very different when McGregor and Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone faced the media at the pre-fight press conference ahead of UFC 246 in Las Vegas this week.
McGregor was on time, respectful, relaxed and seemingly completely absent of the ill feeling that often accompanies the build-up to his fights. And he explained that his changed approach was a genuine one as he expressed his happiness at getting back into the cage again this weekend.
“I’m in a position now where I’m just very, very excited to be here, and I’m very eager to perform for the fans on January 18,” he said.
“I’ve got a solid opponent in front of me, a veteran of the game, and I’m just in a good spot. That’s it. I don’t think I’ve changed or altered. I’m just committed and focused and happy to be here.”
McGregor returns for only his second MMA fight in more than three years to face Cerrone, who is one of the best fighters in UFC history not to have captured championship gold for the promotion.
The Colorado native holds the all-time UFC records for fights, wins, finishes, head-kick knockouts and post-fight bonuses. But the one thing hanging over him is the fact that he has never quite managed to win the biggest fights of his career.
“He’s the two-time belt-holding champ, so you can definitely say this is to date the toughest battle I’ve stepped in against. I'm stoked, man,” he said.
"Everyone always says: 'Cowboy, can you fight the big fight? Can you ever make it on the big fight?’ Well here’s the biggest one! Let’s see!”
The American brings a noticeably different dynamic to the match-up to previous McGregor opponents.
While McGregor often draws ire from his opposite number ahead of fight night, Cerrone's positive, respectful approach seems to have brought the best out of McGregor, who shared some fun, good-natured exchanges with "Cowboy" during the presser.
But even though it was all smiles on stage, McGregor made sure people knew he was ready to return with a bang on fight night.
“I like him and all, he’s a good guy," explained McGregor, "But I can read Donald like a children’s book, if I'm being honest. He’s a good fighter, he’s got some good tricks up his sleeve. I know the tricks he has, I know what he’s planning and what he hopes to achieve. But we’re well prepared, and we’ll see on the night. It’s going to be a good night.”
And although the pair appeared to be on the same page with their respect for each other and their desire to produce a spectacular main event for the fans in Las Vegas, their views on how the fight would pan out were markedly different, with one man predicting a long, drawn-out battle and the other confidently predicting a knockout finish.
“I’m going to go in there and give it all we got,” said a grinning Cerrone. “I am going five rounds with this dude, and I cannot wait until Saturday.”
But McGregor, who has made a habit of predicting his biggest wins – often down to the round and even the technique used – was more emphatic in his prediction.
“He has my respect,” McGregor said. “Although there will be blood spilled on January 18, it will not be bad blood. The ‘Mystic Mac’ prediction will be a KO.”