A couple of days out from UFC 267 and the mood certainly shifted, with Thursday night’s pre-fight press conference in Abu Dhabi bringing a definite intensity.
The UFC returns to the capital with a stellar card at Etihad Arena on Saturday, comprising two title bouts and a number of intriguing match-ups – particularly on the main bill.
On Thursday, in front of a select but still-vocal crowd at Etihad Arena, inaugural Fight Island star Khamzat Chimaev played to the expectant audience by trading taunts with upcoming opponent Li Jiagliang.
At the stare-down, the two went nose-to-nose as UFC president Dana White attempted to keep them from butting heads.
Meanwhile, former champion Petr Yan tried to spook rival Cory Sandhagen during the face-off before their interim bantamweight title clash on Saturday, but the No 3-ranked contender didn’t flinch.
The biggest cheers of the night were saved for Chimaev and top lightweight contender Islam Makhachev, with White entering the stage first to huge cheers.
Asked about the significance of the relationship between the UFC and Abu Dhabi, which stretches back more than a decade, White said: “Very important. Abu Dhabi has been instrumental in a lot of the things that we’ve done over the last 10, 12 years.
“And hopefully when this week is over it’s going to be a lot more instrumental and I can finally tell you guys all the things we’ve been working on over here. We’re planning on doing massive, massive things in this country so I’m looking forward to it.”
Previewing the night's main event, light-heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira kept it light for the most part, although both vowed to knock out the other. Teixeira, the No 1-ranked contender, was celebrating his 42nd birthday on Thursday, with Blachowicz saying he'll have a present for him post-fight on Saturday.
"Not the belt," the Pole joked.