First things first: Andre Fili leaves no doubt where he stands on the words Conor McGregor chose to describe him on Saturday.
McGregor, the UFC’s biggest star, was caught on camera repeatedly referring to Fili by a gay slur after Fili scored a one-sided win over McGregor’s teammate, Artem Lobov, in a featherweight bout at UFC Gdansk.
The video was deleted and neither the UFC nor McGregor have offered official comment, but the damage was done, and word got back to Fili.
“There’s no need to use words like that,” Fili told MMA Fighting on Tuesday in a phone interview from Poland. “You don’t need to demean other people to make yourself seem bigger. Whenever you hear someone use that word or call someone a ‘bitch,’ that makes you look so insecure.”
But Fili also takes issue with the UFC’s biggest star for another reason: He feels McGregor was being phony with him.
McGregor made a spectacle of himself at Ergo Arena in Gdansk, arriving on the arena floor to a giant ovation. Referee Marc Goddard eventually had to tell him to back off when he caused a commotion cageside during the fight.
“That fired me right up,” Fili said. “He tried to stare me down and I locked eyes with him and did not back down. He started quoting Notorious B.I.G. lyrics and I just laughed. I was just like ‘not tonight, motherf*cker.’ That's why I did his ‘billionaire strut’ and everything.”
Fili poured it onto Lobov during the fight, nearly finishing him with a head kick in the opening round and leaving no doubt who was the better fighter in his unanimous decision victory.
“There’s nothing like kicking someone’s ass with their best friend watching on in their corner,” Fili said. “Conor did me a big favor. I was already ready to go but he made me turn it up another level.”
After the fight, Fili and McGregor talked in the Octagon, and the Team Alpha Male fighter thought things were settled.
“I told him it was all about the fight, what happened in the fight stayed there, and that I respected him,” Fili said. “I thought we were cool. I meant it, too. I know having Conor in the middle of my fight means I get way more attention, I have more Twitter and Instagram followers now and I’ll make more money. I know what he’s done to lift the sport.
“But then, while I’m doing my interview, unbeknownst to me, he’s in the back calling me that word, while I’m in the cage doing my interview,” Fili said. “Then when I’m in back getting my medicals done, Conor walks up to me and he shakes my hand and tells me he respects me and that we had a bond because of The Ultimate Fighter (the season in which Fili was an assistant coach for Urijah Faber against McGregor’s team) and I told him I respected him.”
That was that, until word reached Fili about the controversy.
“Don’t be fake with me,” Fili said. “I’m as real a person as you’re going to meet. You’re always going to know where you stand with me. For him to say what he said and then turn right around and act like we’re cool, that’s so fake.”
While the interaction with McGregor ended up on a sour note, there was little else that went wrong for Fili in Poland. Fili wanted to shake off a bad performance at UFC 214 against Calvin Kattar and asked to get right back into the cage.
Other than having to fight off jet lag going from the West Coast to Eastern Europe, Fili was happy with his performance, which gave him two victories in his past three fights.
“Artem was tough, I’ll give him that,” Fili said. “When I hit him with the head kick [late in the first round] I probably should have followed up and tried to finish the fight, but that’s easy to say in hindsight. In the third round, yeah, I decided to change the game plan and take it to the mat because I was feeling tired, I started feeling the time difference. But I feel like in doing that I showed I was better than him in every aspect of the game.”
Fili took a few days off after the fight to spend time with friends in Poland, and got a new tattoo, too: A rendering of The Grinch. But while he’s enjoying his win, he already has a next opponent in mind: The “Korean Superboy,” Doo Ho Choi, a bout originally scheduled for UFC 214 before Choi pulled out with an injury.
“I was fired up for that fight,” Fili said. “I’m calling him out, but I mean it in a respectful way. He’s a great talent and I think our styles will bring the best out of each other. I hope the UFC makes this fight.”