There was a tense and somewhat ugly scene at Wednesday evening’s UFC 246 press conference in Las Vegas.
Canadian journalist Morgan Campbell, who has regularly covered MMA over the years. asked headliner Conor McGregor about the two reported sexual assault allegations made against him. McGregor never said a word, because what transpired was immediate booing by many fans at the Pearl Theater, UFC president Dana White running interference, and Donald Cerrone also trying to steer Campbell away from the topic.
“A couple quick questions for Conor about your legal issues,” Campbell started. “What can you tell us—-”
The boos began, then Cerrone interjected by saying, “We’re here to talk about a fight, nothing he does outside of fighting. Why does everybody keep going there?”
“He answered these questions yesterday on ESPN,” White chimed in.
Campbell continued to pursue the questions anyway, despite the fan reaction.
“Can you tell us anything specifically about the status of the sexual assault allegations in Ireland?”
“He answered that yesterday on ESPN,” White replied again.
“Was there ever a point where you guys were concerned that it might imperil this fight?” Campbell asked.
White responded with a simple, “No.” That was the end of Campbell’s time on stage.
Video of the whole exchange can be seen at roughly 12:48 of this clip.
That ESPN interview White referenced was McGregor’s one-on-one with Ariel Helwani, with McGregor denying flatly those allegations. It should be noted that Helwani never specified “sexual assault,” instead going with the vague “allegations.”
McGregor, who’s not been formally charged, did not directly address these questions until the Helwani interview. It took five months after the first New York Times report (which directly named him, something Irish media legally cannot do) for Dana White to even be asked about the investigation. White has had to answer that question more frequently after the second investigation was reported in October, recently telling Kevin Iole, “He hasn’t been charged with anything. You can’t accuse somebody and stop them from making a living when they haven’t even been charged.”
Our own Trent Reinsmith wrote not even a week ago that MMA media needed to ask McGregor about the sexual assault investigations. We got our answer in two parts: Helwani’s interview with Conor in Ireland produced an actual response, while a public press conference produced booing fans and an immediate shutdown by White.