LAS VEGAS — If Conor McGregor had not thrown a dolly at a bus in Brooklyn before UFC 223, Michael Chiesa believes he would have gotten a title shot on the card.
Chiesa had to pull out of his scheduled fight against Anthony Pettis at UFC 223 due to injuries sustained in the bus attack. Chiesa got glass sprayed onto his face and was a bloody mess afterward.
What happened the morning of UFC 223 weigh-ins is what has Chiesa believing for sure that he would have actually been in the Octagon fighting for a UFC belt at Barclays Center. Max Holloway was unable to make weight and fight Khabib Nurmagomedov for the lightweight strap. Chiesa feels had he been healthy, he would have been the clear replacement. Instead, Al Iaquinta got the nod.
“I don’t really got a lot to say to the guy,” Chiesa said of McGregor at a UFC media day Thursday. “I lost a title shot. I have proof. I was the highest-ranked guy on the card. I would have stepped in to fight Khabib at the drop of a dime. I’ve always loved the fight with Khabib. Bless his heart, he’s a cool ass guy. But this is a sport and I’ve always liked the way I matched up against him and I got f*cked out of that opportunity. I don’t really have too many kind things to say to [McGregor]. You work your whole life for those kinds of opportunities. Do I want mine on short order? No, I’d love a training camp. Like I said, if they walk in the door now and say, ‘Hey, do you want to fight for the title in the next 10 minutes?’ I’m out the door, I’m warming up, I’m ready to go.
“To lose the opportunity, that’s tough. You know how this sport works, guys. Opportunities like that don’t come along. I could strike along 15 wins in a row and still not get a title shot and I lost my opportunity and my dream. I hope that I’m gonna fight my ass off to earn it back starting on July 7 against Anthony Pettis. But yeah, tough pill to swallow.”
Chiesa does meet Pettis at UFC 226 next week here at T-Mobile Arena. He said he has put the incident in Brooklyn mostly behind him. Chiesa gave a “no comment” when asked whether he would be pursuing legal action against McGregor. McGregor has reached out to some other fighters on the bus that day to apologize, but Chiesa said he has not heard from the former lightweight and featherweight champ.
“No, I haven’t heard from him,” Chiesa said. “So, f*ck him.”
Chiesa, who has spent this training camp at the UFC Performance Institute, said he has not soured at all on MMA despite the McGregor mess. McGregor is facing multiple charges, including a felony, in Brooklyn. His next court date is July 26 and his team is currently working on a plea deal.
“My love for mixed martial arts will never waver,” Chiesa said. “My love for the UFC will never waver. Just because one guy played up some theatrics WWE style and took it a bit overboard and affected the lives of fighters and workers with the UFC, I’m not gonna let one person’s actions fiercely affect how much I love this sport. The day I fall out of love with it, I’m hanging it up. It’s not worth it. If you’re gonna get punched in the face, elbowed, cut up, busted up, injured, have to cut weight, have to bring yourself to the brink of death to show up the next day and try to put on the performance of your life, you’ve gotta love it. And if I don’t love it, it’s just not worth it to me. And that love will never die. I’m not gonna let one guy spoil the party.”
Chiesa said he has turned his attention to Pettis, who he believes is a strong opponent for him. A victory would put him closer to the title shot he has been seeking. And one that he might have gotten back in April on short notice.
“I’m just not thinking about that,” Chiesa said of the McGregor incident. “I don’t waste energy on that. I’ve wasted enough. Brooklyn was a f*cking heartbreaker, to say the least. And this is the most I’ve said about it. I’ve tried to stay mostly closed off, but f*ck it. You guys want some answers, you got some.”