Khabib Nurmagomedov delivered the perfect riposte to Conor McGregor's tardiness by conducting his media duties and departing before the Irishman arrived, according to UFC president Dana White.

The pair were due to hold a final news conference on Thursday ahead of their UFC 229 showdown in Las Vegas this weekend, but McGregor did not turn up for the scheduled start of 3pm local time.

McGregor would later blame the Las Vegas traffic for his late entrance but hinted he was playing mind games when he said: "(Nurmagomedov) knew what he signed up for. I've been later than this."

Nurmagomedov refused to dance to McGregor's tune, though, and turned up promptly, not hanging around long enough to wait for his bitter rival.

Nurmagomedov's actions took even White by surprise but he was full of praise for how the Russian handled the situation.

"This one was not how we planned it to go down but, at the end of the day, with McGregor and all the mental warfare games going on, there's the counter to it right there," White said.

"'I'm here on time, I spoke to the media, I'm out of here, I'm not going to play your game and wait for you', so this is all part of what goes on leading up to the fight.

"They'll both be at the weigh-ins on time and we'll get the staredown when it actually matters.

"To be honest, I prefer that anyway. We saw the staredown in New York (at last month's press conference), I want to see the staredown (on Friday). That's the one I'm more interested in."

White wondered whether McGregor would return to the UFC after a lucrative foray into boxing last year to take on former pound-for-pound kingpin Floyd Mayweather.

McGregor will end a near two-year absence from the octagon at the T-Mobile Arena on Saturday to take on an opponent who succeeded him as UFC lightweight champion.

"When a guy makes 100million US dollars you don't know whether he's ever going to fight again," White said.

"Conor made a lot of money, I'm sure he had a lot fun and did what he wanted to do but no matter how much money you make, you can only sit at home for so long before you start to go crazy.

"You can tell this guy's passionate about fighting, he loves breaking records and he obviously loves making money, so he's back."

Mayweather-McGregor did 4.3million pay-per-view buys, and White revealed what has been billed as the biggest fight in the UFC's history could do similar numbers.

That would obliterate the previous highest UFC record of 1.65million buys for McGregor's rematch against Nate Diaz in 2016.

White added: "All the numbers are tracking higher than Mayweather-McGregor and this fight is a global fight, the whole world will be literally watching this fight.

"It's huge, it's massive. I don't want to say we're going to do Mayweather-McGregor numbers but we could possibly do Mayweather-McGregor numbers."

Meanwhile, McGregor accused Nurmagomedov of being "petrified" as he insisted his rivalry with the Russian will not end after this weekend's grudge bout.

McGregor is set to end a near two-year hiatus from the octagon at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday night against the person who succeeded him as UFC lightweight champion.

The pair were set to face off at a news conference, open to the public, at 3pm local time on Thursday but McGregor's late arrival at Park Theater led to a prompt Nurmagomedov conducting his media duties before walking out.

"I'm only a couple of minutes late. He should have stayed put. He doesn't want to be around me, he doesn't want to be around these people. He is petrified.

"My heart is black towards this man, towards his team, towards his people, I can truly see the inside of that man's head and smile.

"I don't give a f*** about him or his people. There is way deeper s*** than just a fight on Saturday night."