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Conor McGregor predicts he'll be fighting in ‘enemy territory' at UFC 202: ‘I'm going into a war zone'

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

No one in the fight game travels quite like Conor McGregor. That much is inarguable. Over the past few years, the boisterous contingent of Irish fans flocking to Las Vegas to support their countryman has been one of the staples of a McGregor fight week, often giving the UFC featherweight champion a sense of fighting on home soil even while thousands of miles away from his native Ireland.

However, McGregor anticipates a different sort of environment to greet him in Las Vegas on Aug. 20, when he finally collides against Nate Diaz in a welterweight non-title rematch at UFC 202.

"I estimate that I'll be fighting in enemy territory this time," McGregor said Monday on The MMA Hour. "Usually it's been home for me in this place, with traveling fans. I'm estimating I'm going into a war zone here. That's what I'm estimating, that's what I've been preparing for, that's what I'm looking forward to."

McGregor's head coach John Kavanagh echoed a similar sentiment in a separate interview Monday on The MMA Hour, and both men pointed to several reasons why the Irish contingent could be smaller at UFC 202 than for past McGregor fights.

Chief among those reasons is the simple fact that many of those fans made the trip out to Las Vegas in July for UFC 200, an event which McGregor was scheduled to headline before the UFC pulled him off the card due to disagreements over media requirements.

Add that to the fact that this is a busy time of year for European sports travel -- between the UEFA European Championships and the Olympics -- and McGregor admitted he would not be surprised if Diaz's already sizable fanbase ends up heavily outnumbering the McGregor faithful inside of the T-Mobile Arena, especially considering the expense of repeated trips from Ireland to Las Vegas.

"I fight all the f*cking time, so it's getting close for me now that I want to fight back home, that I want to give my fans back home a fight," McGregor said. "I've been kept away from my home for a while. I understand that it's big business out here, and that's why we're here. I've got to handle myself too. As much as I want to perform for the fans back home, and I want to have those shows back home and do that, I've still got to handle my business out here.

"So I know my countrymen will be supporting me wherever they are, and I know there will be many here in town, and I know there will be even more back home in Ireland and all over the world supporting me. So, I am content with that for now."

Either way, the anticipated lack of his countrymen able to make the trip for UFC 202 has done little to sour McGregor on the card's financial prospects. Between the combined promotional prowess of McGregor and Diaz, Saturday's rematch is expected to be one of the most profitable UFC events of the past year, and McGregor is confident his run of successful shows will remain intact despite less-than-ideal circumstances.

"The ticket sales have been great for it, for a such a big arena at this time of year, the end of summer with everything going on," McGregor said. "I'm very happy with it. We're talking record breaking again. You know that. You know the pay-per-view buys will be smashed. I've dominated the headlines it seems. I have every game wrapped up. I have the boxing game, I have the wrestling game. I have this game wrapped up for years now. What else can I do?

"This will break all records and I'm very happy with it."