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Mark Henry says he deserved what Conor McGregor said about him at the UFC 205 press conference

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Nobody took Frankie Edgar’s loss against Jose Aldo at UFC 200 harder than Edgar’s coach, Mark Henry. In short, he took the blame for overtraining Edgar, and was gutted to see his longtime contender fall back a space or two in the 145-pound picture. Edgar was one fight away from presumably getting a featherweight title bout with Conor McGregor, whom he was promised a fight with back in December only to see it dissolve just as quick.

Now the familiar players are all gathered for UFC 205 in November, as Edgar will fight Jeremy Stephens and McGregor will try to become the first UFC fighter to hold belts in two weight classes at the same time with a lightweight title shot against Eddie Alvarez. Henry, who coaches Alvarez as well, has been critical of McGregor and his coaching staff — at one point labeling McGregor a fraud — and it became apparent that there’s no love lost from the other side at the UFC 205 press conference last week at Madison Square Garden.

Alvarez and McGregor traded barbs about each other’s coaches, setting the table for what promises to be a heated lead-up to Nov. 12. At one point, when Alvarez brought up Henry’s name, McGregor grabbed the mic and shouted, "F*ck Mark Henry."

Surprisingly, Henry, who was in attendance, said he couldn’t blame McGregor — not after he gave him ammunition to feel that way.

"I was a little upset with myself because, for over a decade being affiliated with guys in the UFC and any organization for that matter, I try to be a good example for my fighters, for my kids and especially as a coach," Henry told MMA Fighting. "Guys that I look up to like Renzo [Gracie] and Ricardo [Almeida] and Nick Catone, and outside of our thing, like Greg [Jackson] and Wink and Brandon Gibson, so many good guys, John Crouch. I don’t know one coach I don’t get along with.

"I talked about a fighter when I shouldn’t have, and I really felt bad about it. I don’t think I have any business talking about a fighter. And whatever Conor had to say to me I think I deserve it or more. Whatever he said…I deserve more than that."

Most of Henry’s frustration goes back to things McGregor’s coach, John Kavanagh, said about his fighters. What bothered him more was that Edgar was left to languish while McGregor fought out of the featherweight division. He compared McGregor to his young daughter.

"Everybody keeps stoking up Conor so much, but Frankie is also trying to go for his second belt, too, and this guy — the thing with my daughter growing up, she was a great kid, but she wanted the baba and the binkie and the blankie (and) she was scared," Henry said at the time to MMA Junkie Radio. "She just wouldn’t get rid of it and held on tight to that. And I think Conor needs to let go of that baba and the binkie and just let go of the 145-pound title."

Henry also responded on Twitter to things that Kavanagh had said, calling him "Irish Edmund," a two-pronged swipe comparing Kavanagh to Ronda Rousey’s beleaguered coach, Edmund Tarverdyan.

Since then, Kavanagh has blocked him on Twitter, and some hard feelings hover in the air.

Henry says he regrets taking the shots, and that it’s not in his nature to do so.

"I’ve got nothing but respect for Conor," he said. "He’s an amazing fighter, and besides my guys where I’m going to be biased, I think he’s the best striker in MMA. I think he’s gotten better in different areas, I have nothing but the utmost respect for him and just what’s he’s done in this sport. And not just in the sport, but personality wise."

Part of Henry’s resolve comes from the way the UFC is booking fights in 2016, with intrigue fights usurping fights that could be made adhering to the rankings. It’s one reason he says he can’t be mad at McGregor, who is just playing the game, but he feels bad for the casualties of the game itself.

"You can’t blame him," he said. "My kid is going to do as much as I’ll allow him to do when he’s five. He’s going to take it and he should. That’s where that’s at, I don’t blame him for that. It just sucks for Frankie at 45 wondering where the hell things are going. I feel horrible for Jose, I mean I feel bad for him. And I feel bad for Khabib too, I really do. But that’s the way it’s done now. It’s done with [Dan] Henderson fighting [Michael] Bisping, and Conor fighting two meaningless fights, Ronda [Rousey] coming back a year-and-a-half, two years later, fighting for the title. CM Punk fighting, it’s crazy."

Though he may be respectful of Kavanagh and McGregor leading up to UFC 205, Henry says he can’t say the same for Alvarez, who already showed he wouldn’t be pushed around at the press conference. In fact, his coach believes Alvarez is the worst kind of person to try and bully or play head games with.

"From my end I have nothing but kind words to say to the coaches and to Conor, like I’ve tried to do through my whole coaching time," Henry said. "But I cannot promise the same for Eddie. But here’s one thing I will say about Eddie man. This stuff does not phase this kid in the least. He laughs his butt off. Even when in the title fight to him, I turn to Marlon Moraes in the corner with us, I turn to him two hours before the fight, and I said, does this dude know he’s fighting for the title, or does he think he’s going to the movies with his wife? He calms you down so much."

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