Conor McGregor denies sexual assault allegations, says he's working on patience

Mixed martial arts star Conor McGregor of Ireland attends a media briefing in central Moscow on October 24, 2019 to announce his next MMA combat schedule on January 18, 2020 in Las-Vegas. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP) (Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)
Mixed martial arts star Conor McGregor said he is focused on the internal ahead of his fighting return. (KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

Conor McGregor has blinders on ahead of his return to fighting this weekend at UFC 246, he told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani in a 47-minute sit-down interview that aired Monday.

McGregor will fight Donald Cerrone in Las Vegas on Saturday at 170 pounds. He chose the opponent and weight for his first fight since 2018, and only his second since 2016. In the wide-ranging interview he denied the sexual assault allegations made against him and called 2019 a “learning year.”

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McGregor denies sexual assault allegations

Helwani sat down with McGregor, 31, at the USC Performance Science Institute on Friday. He said he wanted to speak with the star fighter in person to see how he was doing after they spoke in August 2019. Then, McGregor made a televised apology that some believed was truthful and others questioned.

In that interview, he was not asked about multiple sexual assault allegations made against him. In this one, Helwani asked McGregor if there was anything he wanted to say.

“Look, just — no. I can’t say anything about this. It just has to take place,” he said.

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McGregor said he is working on patience and that “time will show all.” His lawyers released a statement in November saying the fighter “vehemently denies” the allegations. When asked if he still does, he said, “Yes. Of course. Yes [100 percent].”

McGregor calls 2019 ‘learning year’

There were two investigations into separate incidents of sexual assault allegedly committed by McGregor. The first came in December 2018 and he was arrested in January. The news didn’t break until March. Another allegation came in October in his native Ireland and sparked questions of whether McGregor could get a visa for the Jan. 18 fight.

He was also arrested in March for allegedly stealing and smashing a fan’s phone outside of a club in Miami. He pleaded guilty in November to punching an older man in a Dublin pub.

McGregor said he has had a solid five months of work since the last time he sat down with Helwani. He admitted to drinking ahead of the fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov and added that he hasn’t been drinking for a few months now ahead of the upcoming fight.

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He said he feels more mature and “reacted to disrespect” in the past, but is now focused on himself rather than what others say.

“I’ve got blinders on. I’m just focused. Nothing can infiltrate my internal thoughts. No external.

“It used to irritated me the way certain narratives are spread and words are twisted and these types of things. I just have to disengage from it.”

McGregor said he was never concerned about a comeback and wants to keep fighting because he loves the business.

“No. I was there. And my training was flawless. I was in phenomenal condition. I just had little slip-ups and ended up in a cell. … I knew I’d get back. Sometimes certain things need to happen for you to get things right, and that’s what happened to me and here I am.”

Yahoo Sports’ Kevin Iole asked UFC president Dana White in December about McGregor’s allegations and the criticism he faced for booking the fight. He said that McGregor has paid for his decisions.

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