Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015 | 2:24 a.m.
They emptied the area for him, first the other fighters exited stage right and then the UFC official in charge followed.
The promotion has held hundreds of post-fight press conferences where all the night’s big winners sit in a row with UFC President Dana White or a fill-in standing in the middle. That wouldn’t work late Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Conor McGregor needed his own podium, his own space after UFC 194.
“How do I look up here,” McGregor asked while adjusting the sleeves on his custom-tailored maroon suit. “It suits me right. I think I look good up here.”
McGregor stands alone in the UFC after tearing down records in the final pay-per-view card of the year. The 27-year-old from Dublin, Ireland, notched the fastest finish in title-fight history by knocking out Jose Aldo, the UFC’s only previous featherweight champion, in 13 seconds.
He also produced the largest-ever domestic gate for a mixed martial arts event as the sold-out crowd of 16,516 totaled $10.1 million in ticket sales. And the new undisputed featherweight champion can only envision celebrating making history by achieving more.
McGregor says the difference between him and most of the champions that came before is that his ambition doesn’t end with one belt.
“Two weight world champion held consecutively: I said I would do it; I will do it,” McGregor vowed.
UFC Hall of Famers Randy Couture and B.J. Penn are the only fighters to ever win titles in two separate weight classes, and they both did it in a span of several years. McGregor could hold both the lightweight and featherweight belts within a span of months.
White announced on Fox Sports 1 after the card that McGregor would have the option to face the winner of next week’s lightweight championship bout between Rafael dos Anjos and Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone at UFC on Fox 17 in Orlando. He could also opt to stay in the 145-pound division and meet former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, who earned a title shot Friday night.
“I’ll tell you one thing that won’t be happening: If I go up to that lightweight division, there’s no way in hell I’ll be vacating my belt,” McGregor said. “That won’t happen. There will be a belt on one shoulder and a belt on another shoulder.”
In the past, White hasn’t allowed fighters that luxury. But he also hasn’t traditionally yielded a fighter so much power to handpick his next opponent and weight class.
McGregor is different because of the way he’s catalyzed interest since signing to the promotion three years ago. He’s continually made proclamations that sound farfetched until he proceeds to accomplish all of them.
McGregor promised to stop Chad Mendes within two rounds to win the interim title this summer, and knocked him out three seconds before the cut off. McGregor swore Aldo wouldn’t make it out of the first round, and he didn’t come close.
McGregor even described the finishing sequence before the fight, predicting Aldo would come in too strong with his right hand to leave himself open to a counter left. That’s exactly what happened.
“If you can see it (in your head) and you have the courage enough to speak it, it will happen,” McGregor said. “I see these shots, I see these things and I don’t shy away from them.”
Aldo went limp and collapsed to the canvas on one of McGregor’s first punches of the night. McGregor, who had tormented Aldo with trash talk for the entire year, tried to console the former champion who hadn’t lost in 10 years when he awoke.
McGregor told Aldo they could have rematch, which adds a third possibility for his next bout. No decision will be made until at least after New Year’s, according to McGregor.
“I’ll let the plan form,” McGregor said. “It will plan before me. I’ll keep my ear to the ground and see what people are interested in and make a decision then.”
McGregor is mostly linked to either UFC 198, which will be held at Madison Square Garden on April 23 pending New York legalizing mixed martial arts, or UFC 200, staged at the new Las Vegas Arena on July 9. But a reporter reminded McGregor of White saying he could defend his title at a soccer stadium in Ireland if he defeated Aldo, and then asked if he would demand that location.
“Maybe I can these days,” McGregor answered with a smile before concluding his own press conference.