BOSTON — The last time Conor McGregor entered the octagon in Boston, it was before a TD Garden crowd that was half-full at best.
A lot has changed in five months.
McGregor, who defeated Max Holloway by unanimous decision in that August undercard bout, will be the main attraction next Sunday at UFC Fight Night 59, where he’ll battle Dennis Siver with the intention of improving his professional record to 17-2-0.
That’s not all that’ll be on the line Sunday night on Causeway Street, though. UFC president Dana White confirmed last week that if McGregor bests Siver, he will be given the chance to fight defending champion Jose Aldo for the UFC featherweight title.
But a shot at the belt isn’t a concern of the 26-year-old Irishman’s as he prepares for his bout with Siver.
“It doesn’t really play on my mind too much,” McGregor told NESN.com on Friday during a visit to Peter Welch’s Gym in South Boston. “In my mind, I’m the world champion. I’m simply carrying on, competing and becoming a better mixed martial artist. Becoming more loose, more free — gaining more freedom of movement and more control of my body. So, it’s another day for me. I feel like I am the world champion.
“What this fight will bring is that it will solidify the No. 1 contender spot in the fans’ eyes and in the people’s eyes.”
Confidence never has been a problem for McGregor, who boasted earlier this month that his tilt with Silver will be over within the first two minutes. He offered a more subdued response Friday when asked about that prediction, but he did not back down from its accuracy.
“I feel so,” he said. “I’m not going to go in and rush anything, but I feel like it ultimately depends on how much Dennis can take, and I don’t feel he will take what I will give. So, I feel that under the two-minute mark seems like a fair assessment.
In fact, McGregor said he isn’t giving Siver much though at all. He balked when asked what message he send to the 35-year-old Russian, saying that his focus at this point solely is on being ready for next Saturday’s weigh-in — “the real fight,” as he calls it — and not on an opponent who might as well be faceless.
“I’m not really thinking too much about Dennis,” McGregor said. “I am focused on myself. I am focused on the weight, making the weight, performing to the best of my ability. Dennis is a blank face to me. It’s Dennis this time, it was Dustin (Poirier) last time. It could be Jon, it could be Bill, it could be Barry — it doesn’t make a difference. It’s just a blank face and a new body.”
Thumbnail photo via Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports Images
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