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Conor McGregor backs up big talk

BOSTON -- Conor McGregor done did it now. Picking fun at Jose Aldo from afar is one thing. Jumping over a cage wall to scream in his face while cameras roll is taking it to another level.

Were McGregor's actions a marketing ploy? Is it the start of a mind game on his next opponent? Is he just (simply) a crazy person?

Regardless of which answer is correct, the overarching takeaway from UFC Fight Night to me is that McGregor is a fighter who gets it. He gets every single level of the fight game.

Late into the postfight news conference Sunday, McGregor opened up on the exhaustive media obligations that have hit him within the past year: answering the same questions "50 million times" -- in some cases, to general interest interviewers who don't really care about the answer or even know, completely, who McGregor is.

Answering questions such as, as he put it, "How do you feel when you're feeling things?"

And yet, there was McGregor still waxing poetic as the news conference concluded in the early-morning hours Monday -- enough so that UFC president Dana White cut him off mid-sentence.

McGregor had just concluded an insane week of media, which included filming promos to be run during the NFC Championship Game, but he was still willing to talk as long as anyone would listen.

The day before the fight, McGregor, who is a very big featherweight and struggles with the weight cut, tipped the scale at 145 pounds. He was not fighting for a championship, which meant he had a one-pound allowance if need be -- but he wished to make 145 pounds, championship weight.

He said he did so to make a statement. It would not surprise me if he also did it to put his mind at ease and feel at home, before having to do so again in a title fight in May.

"I knew there was a championship on the line here," McGregor said. "I knew I was the No. 1 contender. I did not want to make 146 [pounds] because you are a pound over [in a title fight]. I've never made 145 in the UFC and I wanted to put that little stamp on it. That's championship weight. Tell Jose I'm coming."

These are small preparations you don't see out of every UFC fighter, but McGregor is unique in that way. You can bet he also was sizing himself up next to lightweights Ben Henderson and Donald Cerrone behind the curtains of that weigh-in.

In his first comments at the news conference after the win over Dennis Siver, McGregor mentioned a "record-breaking gate" at TD Garden. This in itself is a promotional comment, placing it in readers' minds you are a major star attraction at a venue that has seen its share of them.

Never mind the small matter of the UFC's last show in Boston, headlined by Chael Sonnen in 2013, did nearly an identical number. A UFC pay-per-view in 2010, the first-ever UFC event in Boston, drew much higher numbers.

The potential inaccuracy of the statement barely matters, though. McGregor was self-promoting. Another sign that he gets it.

And then, of course, what makes all this work long-term: substance. McGregor was nothing short of fantastic in the Octagon on Sunday. The Irishman had a small cut on the bridge of his nose going into the fight (suffered during camp). And after a fight against a seasoned veteran in Siver, that cut was still the only mark on McGregor's face.

The 26-year-old is laying into opponents with a force not typically seen at 145 pounds. And he seems to do it so effortlessly. During an interview a few months ago in Las Vegas, McGregor said he didn't understand Aldo's way of fighting. He sees it as tight, tense energy. Conscious -- almost angry -- force thrown into each leg kick. He strives to be loose and calm and it shows in his performances.

Will all of this translate into a UFC title for McGregor in May? That is far from a given. Aldo will, and should, be the favorite.

If we've learned anything about McGregor, though, we know he'll approach the fight correctly and do everything right leading up to it. UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta said if this situation reminds him of any past one, it's Georges St-Pierre versus BJ Penn.

"It reminds me of when Penn and St-Pierre fought the second time [in January 2009]," Fertitta said. "That felt like a perfect storm. Both were coming of a string of wins. Both were champions and in their prime. It kind of feels like one of those special moments."

With that, here are fighter grades from UFC Fight Night in Boston.