Conor McGregor speaks out for the first time over Irish pub assault incident
Unfortunately for Conor McGregor, recent incidents that have taken place outside of the octagon, rather than action inside it, have got people talking about him.
Most notable, of course, is the recently released video of the Irish mixed martial artist appearing to strike an older man in an Irish pub. The footage sparked outrage online, and McGregor's long time adversary in the UFC, Khabib Nurmagomedov, roundly condemned him, going so far as to say that the Crumlin-born fighter should go to jail over the punch.
Though Conor recently took to Instagram to congratulate bitter rival Nate Diaz on his triumphant return to UFC action, he had, until now, remained largely silent on the subject of the left hand he threw in Marble Arch pub in April of this year. Speaking to ESPN's Ariel Helwani, though, the former featherweight and lightweight champ expanded on the incident, and apologised for his part in it, admitting that he was "in the wrong". Per ESPN, Conor said;
"In reality, it doesn't matter what happened there. I was in the wrong. That man deserved to enjoy his time in the pub without having it to end the way it did. And although it was five months ago, I tried to make amends, and I made amends back then. But that does not even matter. I was in the wrong. I must come here before you and take accountability and take responsibility. I owe it to the people that have been supporting me. I owe it to my mother, my father, my family. I owe it to the people who trained me in martial arts.
"That's not who I am. That's not the reason why I got into martial arts or studying combat sports. The reason I got into it was to defend against that type of scenario. I have been continually making steps to do better and be better.
"I'm just here to own up to that and move on and carry on and face what's coming with it."
With respect to his return to UFC action, Conor said it's time for him to get his "head screwed on", and hinted at having new motivation to return to glory in the fight game after recent events;
"I have to realize that's not the attitude or the behavior of a leader or a martial artist, of a champion. I must get my head screwed on and just get back in the game and fight for redemption, retribution, respect -- the things that made me the man I am. And that's what I will do."
The Irish fighter also revealed that he was on track to make his UFC return in July, before a broken hand suffered in sparring forced him to undergo surgery, thus putting him out of action.
He revealed that the likely opponent for that July bout was Justin Gaethje, but with that all in the past, Conor is fully focused on getting his belt back;
"In the return flight? You know, I want my world title back, and I want that redemption. The camp was incorrect. I learned so much on that. Knowing the commitment I had in that camp and knowing the performance I put on, you know what I mean?"
If a rematch with Khabib cannot be made, though, the Crumlin-born fighter is upbeat about the other opportunities that await him across multiple weight classes;
"If you're asking me who, whoever, if it's -- if Dustin goes in and does it, Dustin. If Nate, Nate. If Jorge, Jorge. I don't know. ... I don't even know Jorge that well. I've seen the last two, and I saw the Al Iaquinta bout. But I mean anyone: Tony Ferguson, Justin Gaethje, Holloway rematch, Jose Aldo rematch. There's so many belts for me Ariel, so many.
"And in reality, it does not matter who. It's just about me getting back in, and being who I am -- not a shell of myself, not half-committed."
You can read a transcript of Ariel Helwani's conversation with Conor McGregor on ESPN. The full interview will be broadcast Sunday at 7pm on ESPN2.