McGregor favourite in Toronto during tour stop with Mayweather

Stephen Brunt and Eric Thomas react to a wild press conference that had Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather continue their war of words.

TORONTO — UFC star Conor McGregor strutted up to the podium, checked the microphone in his hand, and then punched the mic attached to the podium out of its stand. The thousands of combat sport fans in attendance at Toronto’s Budweiser Stage exploded into cheers as his fist connected with the mic.

McGregor then encouraged the crowd to shout expletives at Floyd Mayweather Jr,. and his family before launching into a nearly 10-minute long profanity-laced tirade.

"They’re trying to set me up at every turn out here, they’re trying to catch me off guard, trying to see me in an uncomfortable postion," said McGregor on Wednesday after challenging Mayweather to come and get the remaining microphone from his hand. "But I thrive in uncomfortable positions. There’s nothing they can do to faze me."

McGregor’s theatrics with the microphones were, in part, a reference to his audio cutting out the previous day in Los Angeles, the first stop of their four-city tour promoting a boxing match between the pair billed as "the biggest fight in combat sport history."

The 28-year-old McGregor, who has a 21-3 professional MMA record and is the reigning lightweight champion, will fight a proper boxing match against Mayweather, 40, who has come out of retirement to put his perfect 49-0 record on the line. After L.A. and Toronto the show rolls on to New York City and London with the actual bout in Las Vegas on Aug. 26.

"Twenty-eight years of age and I’m getting fight cheques and promoter cheques," said McGregor. "When Floyd was 28, he was on Oscar De La Hoya’s undercard and that’s just facts."

After McGregor relinquished the microphone Mayweather got his own verbal jabs in, pointing out that his undefeated record spanned 21 years compared to McGregor’s nine years as a pro fighter, only making his UFC debut in 2013.

"One thing we do know, the (expletive) fans can’t fight for you," said Mayweather to a rain of boos. "We’re not talking about being at the top one year, two years, three years, four years. Twenty-one years!"

A notice of a federal tax lien filed on Tuesday against Mayweather, nicknamed "Money," shows that he still owes US$22.2 million in taxes from 2015, the year he earned his biggest payday with a blockbuster fight against Manny Pacquiao.

The lien for 2015 is just the latest in a series of tax liens filed by the IRS against Mayweather over the past decade and it’s an issue that McGregor, and the fans who chanted "pay your taxes," didn’t hesitate to bring up at the raucous news conference.

"Fifty strippers on the payroll this man has," said McGregor, referring to Mayweather’s financial records. "What the (expletive) is he doing at that strip club?"

Mayweather came prepared for the tax jokes though, having a member of his entourage produce a designer backpack that had stacks of money in it. Wearing a black T-shirt and hat with his TMT clothing label emblazoned in red and white with a Maple Leaf in the centre, Mayweather relished playing the villain, insulting McGregor and the fans alike.

Things came to a head when Mayweather pulled an Irish flag from the crowd and draped it over his shoulders to mock McGregor. The MMA fighter, who wore a checked blue suit, sprang to his feet and grabbed the backpack full of money and threatened to throw it into the crowd if Mayweather wasn’t respectful of his home country’s flag.

UFC president said before the news conference that stopping in Toronto — the media centre of Canada — was an absolute must when he was putting together the promotion of the fight with Mayweather and boxing promoters.

"I pushed hard with these guys to come to Canada," said White. "They just don’t understand because in boxing they don’t come up here, they don’t understand the fanbase up here and how it works. I do, very well. I pushed hard for Canada and, once again, Canada delivers."

White was hailed as a hero by the loudly pro-MMA crowd, while Stephen Espinoza, his opposite number as vice-president and general manager of Showtime Sports, was drowned out by the booing fans eager to hear McGregor speak.

The news conference was delayed nearly an hour because Mayweather was stuck in Toronto’s rush-hour traffic. To kill time, rap superstar Drake came out to address the crowd.

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