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Conor McGregor: UFC featherweights are ‘praying I don’t come back’ down

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LAS VEGAS — Conor McGregor has altered many things going into this rematch with Nate Diaz. One of them? Not making any decisions yet on what will be next after UFC 202.

That's a marked difference from past fights. Before UFC 196 and prior to Diaz stepping in for an injured Rafael dos Anjos, McGregor was talking about winning the UFC lightweight title and moving up to face then-champion Robbie Lawler for the welterweight belt at UFC 200.

There was a plan in place at that point. Being one or two steps ahead, like a master at chess, is one of the things that has made McGregor stand out.

The loss to Diaz in March has caused him to change course. Right now, Diaz avenging that defeat on Aug. 20 is the only think the brash Irishman is focusing on.

"I don't even pay attention to it," McGregor said Friday night at a gym day. "Right now here I am, a couple days out from a big one. I'll think about who's next and what's next and all those other guys talking sh*t after the fight."

UFC president Dana White told this week that McGregor would return to the featherweight division to defend his belt, whether he beats Diaz or not. McGregor said he read that article, but has not decided either way what he'll do next. And facing Jose Aldo, who just beat Frankie Edgar at UFC 200 to win the interim title, again is not something McGregor seems to be too interested in.

"If Frankie had have won that last fight after all the sh*t he was talking and his team was talking, it would have been set in stone, I'm going back there to shut that man up," McGregor said. "But he got slapped around in that fight, couldn't do nothing — against a guy that I KO'd in one shot. I've just gotta see it out, see what happens after this fight. I'm the featherweight world champion. The guy I KO'd in 13 seconds is holding the interim. What does that tell you? I'm leaps and bounds ahead of that featherweight division."

McGregor was supposed to fight for the lightweight title against dos Anjos at UFC 196. Only two men, Randy Couture and B.J. Penn, have won UFC titles in two different divisions and no one has ever held two at the same time. McGregor still wants to make history, so current lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez, who has been calling him out, is likely on his radar.

"I still envision two or possibly three belts on my shoulder," McGregor said.

"The Notorious" has also bandied about a possibility of a Diaz trilogy if he were to win the second fight at UFC 202. Meanwhile, many who follow the sport closely are irritated that McGregor holds a prestigious title and is not defending it. McGregor says he will do that — eventually. He just doesn't hold that 145-pound division in high regard right now.

"They're praying I don't come back," McGregor said. "Tell me one time I missed weight. I even made championship weight when I wasn't supposed to make championship, there was no championship on the line. They're praying I don't come back. I've beaten everybody in the division."

McGregor, 28, does own victories over the next two contenders at featherweight, Aldo and Max Holloway. Aldo, who holds the interim title, remains first in line.

And then there's the matter of where McGregor's next fight will be. He has long cherished New York and it's large Irish American population and relative proximity to Dublin. The UFC holds its first card ever in New York City on Nov. 12 and the promise is that it will be a huge one. McGregor in the main event would qualify as that.

"I certainly want to fight closer to home," McGregor said. "I've fought so many times. I'm very, very active, as you know. I've fought out here in Las Vegas. That's a long trip from Ireland. So New York is certainly closer. There's a lot of Irish in New York. I would like to fight there.

"I think I've earned a chance to fight in my hometown also. These are things that I want to do. But right now, we are in Las Vegas. Sin City. The desert. And we've got business to handle. That's what I'm doing here."

McGregor has been here since the first week of July. He had a gym built from scratch for him and his team. He's renting two homes, one for coaches and one for training partners. He's paying all the expenses. McGregor is dead serious about this rematch and getting that one back against Diaz.

Unlike before, the next step is not nearly as important as the one right in front of him.

"We'll see," McGregor said. "There's a lot to still happen yet. I'm gonna go in here, face this man, do what I know I can do, put him away and then we'll talk."