LOS ANGELES — Conor McGregor leaned back and stretched out his legs, scrolling social media as his driver navigated an SUV through the streets from a UFC Gym in Torrance, California, to McGregor’s rented oceanfront home in Hermosa Beach.

The charismatic Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight champion had just left a news conference last week and was satisfied from the instant worldwide reaction to his verbal lashing of Nate Diaz, his opponent Saturday in Las Vegas.

“They loved it,” McGregor said, smiling to himself.

McGregor said he adores the attention he has generated in his rise, from fighting amateur MMA bouts a decade ago in Ireland to winning a featherweight title in December, when he ended the 10-year unbeaten run of Jose Aldo of Brazil in 13 seconds.

McGregor (19-2) was denied a shot to become the first UFC fighter to simultaneously hold two belts because lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos last week withdrew from their scheduled bout Saturday because of a foot injury. So McGregor agreed to a massive jump from the 145-pound featherweight limit to 170 pounds to fight Diaz in UFC 196 main event.

Diaz (26-9), who prides himself as a rowdy, anti-authority fighter, was outclassed at times during McGregor’s verbal roast.

“(The UFC) likes to hold certain people back, (but) they’re pushing McGregor to the sky,” Diaz complained earlier in the day.

In the first five minutes of the news conference, McGregor, 27, chided Diaz because he teaches youth MMA lessons at home. McGregor mocked Diaz as “a little cholo … (who) makes gang signs with the right hand and animal balloons with the left hand.”

How did the Irishman know the term “cholo?”

“It’s a Mexican gangster. I have Mexican friends over here on the West Coast. They’ve been educating me on the ways of these people,” McGregor said on the SUV ride. “The Irish heritage and Mexican heritage are very similar. We are brought up through warfare. We are true fighters. Look at the history of boxing … (the best fighters from each country) fought with everything they had.”

McGregor’s growing appeal has him challenging Ronda Rousey as the UFC’s top draw.

“To get that reception from the fans is an honor,” he said. “It’s a good life.”

McGregor’s knockout of Aldo set a UFC live-gate record of $10.1 million. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated last week, and at a red light on his drive home three motorists jumped from their car to get autographs.

He joked that weight classes and belts no longer matter for his fights, that his involvement makes “the McGregor belt” more intriguing.

“Every time, my purse rises,” McGregor said.

McGregor is 5-foot-9, so his move to fight at 170 pounds against the 6-foot Diaz, a former 155-pound contender, provides a new challenge.

When McGregor was reminded that fighters who move up in weight often lose their power punching, he answered, “I have insane power … my training partners have been welterweights (170-pounders) my whole career so it’s not a strange feeling to me. It’s a normal weight I’ve felt.

“(Diaz) is too slow. His shots are too slow, too labored. He pushes his shots.”

Nick Diaz, a former UFC welterweight champ and the brother of Nate, says his brother benefited from training with former super-middleweight boxing champion Andre Ward. The experience in a boxing ring makes Nate Diaz a more sophisticated stand-up fighter than anyone McGregor has faced, his brother said.

“We’ll see, when the heel is swinging by his head at 100 mph, how he reacts,” McGregor said.

Further, McGregor felt comfortable that Nate Diaz seemed a bit unstable as they faced off for cameras last week.

“He has a lot of people in his ear and he’s trying to live up to something, I feel, so it will affect him,” McGregor said. “And it will cost him dearly.”

McGregor’s calculated tirades about his opponents go beyond typical UFC fight talk, but he responds that penetrating a foe’s psyche does not violate any martial arts code.

“This is prizefighting, the fight business,” he said. “Words mean nothing in this game when you get in there and you’re looking to inflict damage. Who cares about words? There’s respect but it’s the fight business.”

In last week’s news conference, Diaz annoyed McGregor by alleging the Irishman takes steroids.

McGregor called the claim “absolutely ridiculous,” claiming “I was the most tested fighter in 2015.”