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Zen-like approach as Conor, Jose meet

The talk is over … almost. With their long-awaited UFC featherweight title unification bout on Saturday drawing nearer, the incendiary back-and-forth between champion Jose Aldo and interim titleholder Conor McGregor settled to a slow boil Wednesday at the final UFC 194 press conference at MGM Grand.

“I am in a state of Zen right now,” McGregor said. “My mind is calm, composed. I am prepared. And I am happy we are here.”
 


So happy that there were no nose-to-nose stareoffs with Aldo, no snatching of the Brazilian’s belt since he now has one of his own, and no harsh words sent in the champion’s direction. Even when asked about Aldo’s style, the most the Dubliner could muster was “he’s stuck in the same pattern. It’s routine and repetition. He’s predictable.”

Not surprisingly, the normally taciturn Aldo remained so as he met the press, only breaking into a couple of smiles, notably when questioned about McGregor having spies in his camp (McGregor slyly said yes he did, while Aldo laughed) and about the odds for the fight.

“If you want to win some easy money,” the Rio product grinned, “bet on Jose Aldo.”

In a lot of ways, it’s understandable that it got to this point. A multi-country media tour to promote their original meeting at UFC 189 in July was an exhausting affair for the fighters, who took every chance to verbally snipe at each other while keeping UFC President Dana White busy as he had to break the two up on several occasions.

More on Aldo vs. McGregor: A look at Conor's mental game | In Brazil Aldo is king, honed by humble roots | Conor McGregor Beyond the Octagon | Watch: Only One King | Watch: McGregor's Best Soundbites from GO BIG press conference | Watch: Joe Rogan's Ultimate 8 - Jose Aldo | Watch: Aldo's MMA domination | Irish Invasion blog

A rib injury subsequently forced Aldo to the sidelines, allowing McGregor to pick up the interim title with a second-round TKO of Chad Mendes, but even with the five-month delay for the fight to finally arrive, anticipation has only been heightened among fans and media. As for the combatants, they’re eager to just hear the first bell ring.

“I visualize entering the contest unpredictable,” McGregor said. “I will be a ghost in there. I’m going to put on a masterpiece. This fight will prove that I am number one.”

The man at the top of the division and in the number one spot on the pound-for-pound list has other plans, though. Brushing off rumors that he was planning on retiring after the fight (“I’m still 29, I don’t want to retire, I’ve got a lot ahead,”), Aldo kept it simple when it came to his plans on Saturday night.

“I can’t talk about his weaknesses because then I can’t use them,” he said. “If the fight stays on the feet, I’ll finish it. If it goes to the ground, I’ll finish it.”

It’s hard to argue with a man who hasn’t lost in 10 years, but if anyone will, it’s Conor McGregor.

“I’m a man with something to prove,” the “Notorious” one said, “and a man with something to prove is a dangerous individual.”

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