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Conor McGregor opens up on ‘publicized civil war’ with UFC over UFC 200

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Conor McGregor broke his silence on Sunday, speaking publicly for the first time about the dispute with the UFC that ultimately led to his removal from UFC 200. In an interview with ESPN, McGregor called the whole situation "a publicized civil war," stating that there was a lot going on back home and he simply wanted to focus on training for his rematch against Nate Diaz.

"I was in a time where I was like, figuring out something," McGregor said. "I didn't just shut out and say no to everything. I just wanted to do reasonable media, and then, hey, all of a sudden, ‘Conor, it's three months from the fight, we've got to drag you (onto) 40-hour flights to come and do a runaround, New York, Vegas, California, 70 press conferences, 70 talk shows, adverts, all of this,' and it's like, I already made you $400 million last week. That was only last week, that fight. I need to get right.

"That's how it all came about. I just wanted to focus and I was deep in the process, and especially at that particular moment, I just wanted a little bit more time. I didn't shut it off completely. Reasonable media, is what I said. I said I would do New York. I said I would do everything else after that. I just needed another little bit to set myself, and then the lack of communication, they weren't having it. They were trying to push back on me, I was trying to push back on them, and look, it blew up then."

As the situation escalated on a public stage, it effectively took over UFC 197 fight week in Las Vegas, culminating in a memorable UFC 200 press conference that was dominated by talk about McGregor's absence and UFC President Dana White's insistence that McGregor was off the July 9 card.

McGregor admitted on Sunday that there were times -- especially during the press conference -- that he regretted his decision to stay in Iceland with his team rather than fly to Las Vegas, although he added that he never imagined the situation would reach the point it did, and that ultimately he was trying to stand up for what he believed in.

"I'll tell you what, it blew up," McGregor said. "I was just kind of having fun at the start. It was kind of half-hearted, and then it just went [crazy], and now all of a sudden you're off UFC 200, and I was like, ‘alright, well f*ck you too then.' It was fun. Seeing it all blow up like that, it was amusing for a while.

"There were times when I was ... seeing the press conferences take place, and I was like, ah, I should've just jumped on the damn flight. I should've just stuck it out and went with it. But sometimes you've gotta do what's right for you, and not do what's right for everybody else -- and especially if you've done what's right for everybody else a million times over, you should have the right to be able to do what's right for you sometimes. That's what I felt."

McGregor and UFC officials met this past week in California to hash out their differences and resume talks on the rematch with Diaz, who infamously defeated McGregor via second-round rear-naked choke on short notice at UFC 196.

The meeting left things "in a good place," according to McGregor. A similar meeting between the UFC and Diaz in Stockton did not go as well, though both sides appear to be targeting a fight date on Aug. 20 at UFC 202.

"I'm committed to the fight game," McGregor said. "I enjoy competition. I enjoy challenges. So, if a challenge is in front of me, and it appeals to me, then I will go and I will conquer it.

"I'm open to challenges. I enjoy fighting, period."