Ulster secured a European Champions Cup quarter-final spot with a 22-15 defeat of Bath, while Northampton Saints and Glasgow Warriors stayed in the hunt for qualification on Saturday.

Clermont Auvergne sealed top spot in Pool 3 with a 26-19 victory at Harlequins, but Ulster knew a defeat of Bath would see them through as one of three best-placed runners-up.

The Pro14 side got the job done in the second half after the two sides were level at 7-7 at the break, Robert Baloucoune and Will Addison going over to add to a first-half try from Marcell Coetzee before Billy Burns was on target with a penalty.

Tries from Ruaridh McConnochie and Ross Batty, who was later red-carded for a no-arms tackle on John Cooney, were not enough for Bath to end the competition on a high note.

Northampton did all they could to advance as runners-up with a 36-24 victory at Top 14 high-flyers Lyon in Pool 1.

The Saints will go progress if either Saracens or Gloucester fail to pick up maximum points wins on Sunday after Mike Haywood, Teimana Harrison, Cobus Reinach, George Furbank and James Fish touched down in a bonus-point triumph at Matmut Stade de Gerland.

Glasgow must hope defending champions Sarries, whose relegation from the Premiership at the of the season for persistent salary-cap breaches was announced on Saturday, and Gloucester slip up after demolishing Sale Sharks 45-7 in Pool 2.

Leone Nakarawa set the tone early on with one of six Glasgow tries at the AJ Bell Stadium, where Adam Hastings scored 15 points from the tee.

Leinster made it six victories out of six in Pool 1 with an 18-0 defeat of Benetton Treviso, while Sam Simmonds grabbed a double as Pool 2 winners Exeter Chiefs saw off La Rochelle 33-14 at Sandy Park.

Beleaguered Sarries host Racing 92 on the final day of pool matches reeling from the announcement that they will drop of out of the Premiership, while Gloucester travel to Toulouse.

Defending champions Saracens will be relegated from the Premiership at the end of the 2019-20 season, Premiership Rugby has confirmed.

Sarries, who won the English top flight and the European Champions Cup last season, were docked 35 points and fined £5.36million in November for breaching salary cap regulations in each of the past three seasons.

The London club are bottom of the Premiership table on minus seven points but have the joint-best record in the division with six wins in eight matches this term.

However, after talks between the governing body and Saracens in the aftermath of the latter's initial punishment, it has been decided they will drop down to the Championship for next term.

Recently appointed Saracens chairman Neil Golding said: "I acknowledge the club has made errors in the past and we unreservedly apologise for those mistakes.

"I and the rest of the board are committed to overseeing stringent new governance measures to ensure regulatory compliance going forward."

Premiership Rugby has launched an independent review into the salary cap as a result of the Saracens saga, which will be led by former Treasury minister Lord Myners.

Chief executive Darren Childs said: "Premiership Rugby is prepared to take strong action to enforce the regulations governing fair competition between our clubs.

"At the conclusion of dialogue with Saracens about their compliance with the salary cap regulations, it has been decided that Saracens will be relegated at the end of this season."

Childs added: "The actions that we have taken – dealing with breaches of the current regulations and reviewing the system for the future – will help us to build a stronger league and uphold the confidence of supporters."

Six Saracens players started for England in their World Cup final loss to South Africa in November, including captain Owen Farrell, but a star-studded line-up now looks certain to be broken up.

On Sunday, Sarries face Racing 92 in the Champions Cup, where victory will virtually secure progress to the knockout stages.

Farrell is joined in the starting XV by England colleagues Elliot Daly, Jamie George, Maro Itoje and Mako and Billy Vunipola, and a run in this season's tournament is likely to be a last hurrah for this collective.

Even if they win Europe's top competition for the fourth time in their last five attempts, Saracens' Championship status will mean they are barred from entering next year.

Defending champions Saracens will be relegated from the Premiership at the end of the 2019-20 season, Premiership Rugby has confirmed.

Tyson Fury wants to follow his upcoming fight with Deontay Wilder by taking on Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte before retiring.

Former world heavyweight champion Fury will take on WBC title-holder Wilder in Las Vegas on February 22 after their previous meeting ended in a dramatic draw.

The 31-year-old then wants his final acts in boxing to be unifying the division by taking on IBF, WBA and WBO champion Joshua and offering Whyte a first world title shot.

"I've got three more fights left. Wilder next, Joshua then Dillian Whyte, then I'm out," Fury told iFL TV.

"[Dillian] has been mandatory for something like 2,000 days and hasn't had a world title shot so when I beat Wilder I'll give him a shot.

"He can be a defence, for sure. One of my last three. Joshua and Whyte, done."

Joshua did not deliver on an offer to spar with his fellow Briton as part of his preparations to face Wilder, but Fury was not overly concerned.

"It's all hot air. Sometimes people say stuff in the heat of an interview and they don't really mean it. After he did the interview he said afterwards he wished he never said it," he said.

"It doesn't really matter, I don't want him to come sparring anyway, it's not going to help me, he's nothing like Deontay Wilder at all and I wouldn't want to give him the opportunity to get an insight on what it's like to be out-boxed and out-punched by me in a spar rather than in a fight.

"His time will come, don't worry about that."

Fury previously predicted he will knock Wilder out in the second round and the WBC king said he will hang up his gloves if that comes to fruition.

"Him saying he's gonna knock me out in the second round is not believable," said Wilder.

"He has pillows as fists, so I can't see that happening. If he knocks me out in the second round, I'm retiring. I'm done."

Luka Doncic is a "walking bucket" and the Dallas Mavericks fans should really appreciate being able to watch him, according to Carmelo Anthony.

Last season's Rookie of the Year Doncic made a career-high eight three-pointers and had 35 points, eight rebounds and seven assists as the Mavs defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 120-112 at American Airlines Center on Friday.

Anthony had 22 points for the Blazers, who slipped to an 18-25 record and sit 2.5 games back of the playoff positions in the Western Conference.

When the 10-time All-Star was informed Doncic had referred to him as a "walking bucket", he returned the compliment.

Anthony continued: "As far as Luka goes, he's gonna be in this league for a long time.

"He's a young player and he's gonna get better and better. For years to come we're gonna to be watching a special player.

"I hope you guys out here in Dallas really appreciate what you have in front of you right now."

Anthony, who in November joined the Blazers after nine months without a team having been waived by the Chicago Bulls following his trade from the Houston Rockets, became the 18th player to reach 26,000 career points when he scored a free throw in the first quarter in Dallas.

"This is a situation where I've always continued to believe in myself and I think with that being the case I'm able to still go out there and perform the way I want to be able to perform and enjoy the game again," he said.

"I think people understand the situation I was in, but most important I think people understand the type of person I am. When you have that organic natural energy, people pick up on those vibes."

Portland lost CJ McCollum to a left ankle sprain in the second quarter and he did not return to the game. It is unclear if he will be fit to face the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday.

"Usually, the second day is the worst," McCollum said. "So we'll see how it feels [on Saturday]. Get some treatment, try to compress it and see how it feels."

Denis Shapovalov would not play in the Australian Open if he felt conditions were unsafe amid continued concern over the air quality in Melbourne.

Bushfires that have ravaged Australia in recent weeks led to a smoky haze drifting over Victoria, having a significant impact on qualifying for the first grand slam of 2020.

Dalila Jakupovic had to retire from her qualifying match in distressing scenes after suffering a coughing fit during the second set against Stefanie Voegele.

Tennis Australia has since published its air quality policy, which states play will be suspended if the concentration of P2.5 particles, which can impair lung function, exceeds 200 micrograms per cubic metre.

The policy indicates there will be a discussion between medical staff and officials about whether it is advisable to play when the score is between 97 and 200.

Speaking ahead of the tournament, where he will face Marton Fucsovics in the first round on Monday, Shapovalov was asked what he would do if he believed conditions to be unsafe.

"I wouldn't play," he replied. "Obviously it's a grand slam, it's a big opportunity, but I'm 20 years old.

"I don't want to risk my life, risk my health being out there in these conditions when I can play for the next 10, 15 years.

"For my own health, if it gets bad, I just don't see what the point is. I think everyone's kind of on the same page. I don't think I've seen anyone happy with the way things are being dealt with."

On the air quality policy, he added: "They send some email and say they have professionals looking at it and they use the term 'playable'.

"For me it's just like, it's not great. You get warnings from the news telling people to stay inside, that it's not good to be outside, breathing this stuff in.

"And then you get an email from the tournament saying it's playable and you guys have to go out there and put your life in jeopardy, put your health in jeopardy.

"You see the effects on players it has right now, the last couple of days, but also you don't know what it's going to do later in our lives and how it could affect us if we're breathing this air in for two weeks."

 

Andrey Rublev became the first man since 2004 to start an ATP season with successive titles thanks to a routine victory over Lloyd Harris in the Adelaide International final.

Having won the Qatar Open last week, Rublev maintained his stunning start to 2020 in South Australia and Harris, playing in his first Tour-level final, was no match for the Russian. 

Rublev had come through three-setters with Dan Evans and Felix Auger Aliassime en route to the final, the latter contest lasting just shy of three hours.

No such epic was needed for Rublev in the tournament showpiece, however, as he moved to 8-0 for the season with a 6-3 6-0 win.

He is now unbeaten in 12 matches and will rise to a career-high ranking of 16 ahead of the Australian Open.

The statistics tell the story for Rublev, who has proved almost impossible for his opponents to break down this week.

Rublev saved 20 of the 23 break points he faced in Adelaide, including all four Harris brought up in the final.

The South African failed to convert a break point in the fifth game and was immediately punished as Rublev capitalised on a poor service game from Harris.

Harris then had three break-back points in the subsequent game but still allowed Rublev to hold and from there it was a procession. 

A hold for Harris at least forced Rublev to serve out the first, but he did so with little difficulty as he rattled off seven successive games to replicate Dominik Hrbaty's achievement of 16 years ago by clinching back-to-back titles.

Conor McGregor certainly packs a punch inside the octagon but with his quick thinking and acid tongue he also does outside of it.

The Irishman has earned hordes of fans the world over for his technical brilliance and his verbal put-downs of opponents and fellow UFC fighters.

On Saturday, McGregor returns from a 15-month UFC hiatus – having been submitted by Khabib Nurmagomedov in his previous bout – to face Donald Cerrone.

Ahead of his showdown with 'Cowboy', we take a look back at some of the best trash talk from 'The Notorious'.

 

I RUN THIS WHOLE SHIP!

Ahead of his scrap with Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight belt at UFC 205 in November 2016, McGregor had some choice words for those who felt he received preferential treatment from owner Dana White.

"I run this whole thing. I run New York. I run this whole ship. Without me none of this happens. I run this whole s***. Everyone in this game does what they're f****** told except for me and rightly f****** so. If I say you're on the prelims, you're on the f****** prelims. If I say main event, it's the f****** main event."

HIS WIFE AND KIDS WON'T RECOGNISE HIM!

Alvarez himself did not escape McGregor's ire, with the Irishman making some pretty gruesome promises.

"I'm going to toy with this man. I will rearrange his facial structure. His wife and kids won't recognise him again. His friends will know he's not the same after this contest. You're never, ever going to be the same. Your kids are going to beg, 'Daddy, please don't go again!'"

WHO THE F*** IS THAT GUY?!

When McGregor was asked prior to facing Alvarez who his biggest rival is, Jeremy Stephens called out: "Right here, the real hardest-hitting 145-pounder, right here." McGregor replied with a brutally simple six-word put-down.

"Who the f*** is that guy?!"

I'D LIKE TO APOLOGISE…TO ABSOLUTELY NOBODY!

McGregor kept his word to defeat Alvarez and become the first UFC fighter to hold belts in two divisions at the same time. His post-fight interview produced this absolute gem.

"I've ridiculed everyone on the roster, I just want to say from the bottom of my heart, I'd like to take this chance to apologise…to absolutely nobody!"

I CAN MAKE YOU RICH, I'LL CHANGE YOUR BUM LIFE!

Back in September 2015 at a 'Go Big' news conference, the Irishman launched one of his most famous tirades. Replying to comments from Rafael dos Anjos, who was promoting a fight with Cerrone, he bragged about the attention he brings to UFC.

"I can make you rich. I'll change your bum life. You fight me, it's a celebration. When you sign to fight me, it's a celebration. You ring back home, you ring your wife, 'Baby, we've done it. We're rich baby. Conor McGregor made us rich. Break out the red panties.'”

YOU'RE STIFF AS A BOARD!

At the same media event, McGregor replied to Cerrone's assertion he could not cut it at 155lbs.

"You're too slow and you're too stiff. You're stiff as a board and I'd snap you in half, and that's it. I see stiffness when I look in the 155-pound division...slow, stiff, I feel like they're stuck in the mud almost. Yee-haw!"

I COULD BUY AND SELL YOU A HUNDRED TIMES OVER

The bad blood between McGregor and Nate Diaz drew some of the most heated comments from the Irishman.

"My socks are worth more than the suit you had on, you little bum. You're a broke b****. I could buy and sell you a hundred times over."

THE KING IS BACK!

After avenging his loss to Diaz by winning the return fight at UFC 202, McGregor had a simple message for his detractors.

"Surprise, surprise, motherf******! The king is back!”

I NEED TO FEED EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU IN THE GAME

McGregor was named Fighter of the Year for 2015. He was typically…let's say gracious...with his speech when accepting the award.

"I need to feed all you bums. I need to feed every single one of you in the game so I've got to keep working. Because you bums don't work."

The Australian Open should be delayed or postponed if air quality deteriorates and smoke blankets Melbourne, according to Dr Matthew Conron. 

Australia has been ravaged by bushfires in recent months, triggering poor air conditions and concerns among players for their welfare ahead of the year's first grand slam.

Australian Open organisers have come under fire after allowing qualifiers to take place on Tuesday, despite a thick haze of smoke, forcing Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic to retire, while Eugenie Bouchard, Bernard Tomic and Maria Sharapova also struggled.

The main draw gets underway on Monday and all eyes are on the Victorian capital with conditions continuing to fluctuate.

Asked if the slam should go ahead, Conron - Associate Professor and Director of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine at St Vincent's Hospital in Melbourne - told Omnisport: "From a respiratory physician's point of view, if you had air quality of the type we have seen previously, I'd think the recommendation would be to delay or postpone the tournament until the weather cleared.

"I wouldn't think there'd be risk of long-term damage to your lungs. However, there's certainly a risk of precipitating an asthma attack. For those who have known asthma in particular, they'd be at a significant disadvantage to whose who haven't."

Conron, who helped prepare athletes for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing amid concerns over poor air quality in China, added: "Everyone would be at increased risk of developing respiratory symptoms.

"A lot would get sore throats, a bad and irritating cough and a smaller number would probably get asthma-type symptoms, particularly if they're not adequately controlled.

"If I was to provide advice to players and those wanting to do exercise in those conditions, if possible don't."

Tuesday's conditions were in the "very poor" range. For such weather, the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) recommends avoiding being outside and reducing prolonged or heavy physical activity. In some areas of Melbourne and Victoria, conditions were "hazardous". In those conditions, people are urged to close their windows and doors, while keeping physical activity levels as low as possible.

Conron added: "There's athletes who don't know they have asthma or might only have mild asthma and they're not on treatment. For that group of people, there's also the risk of increased symptoms associated with exposure to poor air quality. They might perform worse than they normally perform.

"The other thing is, tennis players are under the WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency] code. So you can't just treat them with steroids or high doses of inhalers without an adequate diagnosis, because they run the risk of being tested and face a ban.

"At the Australian Open, they would've had to notify WADA they are on medication. For example, if there's someone who doesn't know they have asthma and have an attack - you're allowed to take 16 puffs of Ventolin a day, which doesn't get you over the threshold. Not all inhalers are approved."

Dr Karl Kruszelnicki - who has degrees in physics and maths, biomedical engineering, medicine and surgery - also provided an insight into the conditions that have left tennis players concerned.

"I'd tell them not to do it [play]. The right thing to do would be to cancel the tournament," Kruszelnicki told Omnisport. 

"Sitting at rest, we breathe in maybe five litres of air every minute. But if we're exercising hard, we can get up to 50-70L. So you have these athletes on the court and they're shifting huge amounts of air in their lungs and they're getting acute affects from it. The air is not safe to breathe.

"Our immune system is made stronger by the moderate amount of exercise we do. But when you get to the top-grade athletes, their immune systems go to lunch and they're really fragile.

"These athletes at the tennis and Olympic Games, they're scared of people coming in with influenza. They are pushing their bodies way beyond what's actually healthy, but they want to win a tournament. In terms of the effect of the air pollution on them, they're more at risk than a less highly trained person, because their immune system has been knocked out of whack. 

"They have pushed themselves so hard but they have compromised their immune systems. So they're taking more pollutants in, but their bodies are more fragile. You think they have big muscles and can run around. In that regard they can, but almost certainly, they'd be more fragile. The technical term is an insult - an infection or pollution."

Ash Barty claimed her first title in her native Australia as she defeated Dayana Yastremska in the final of the Adelaide International.

The world number one will start her campaign to add her home grand slam to the French Open title she won in 2019 next week, and will do so in fine form after seeing off one of the most promising players on the WTA Tour.

Nineteen-year-old Yastremska was playing in her first WTA Premier final and it was Barty's experience that won the day in one hour and 26 minutes.

Having twice been a runner-up in the Sydney International, Barty laid those demons to rest with a 6-2 7-5 success that should give her plenty of confidence as she heads to Melbourne Park.

The first set was one dictated by Barty, as she used her nous to work the angles against Yastremska, playing a reigning world number one for the first time in her fledgling career.

Yastremska's unfamiliarity with such a situation was reflected by the 12 unforced errors she made in the first set.

By contrast Barty committed just one unforced error in the opener and was a constant threat to the Yastremska serve.

The Ukrainian's fifth service game saw her fend off three break points before Barty snatched a fourth to take a 1-0 lead in the second set, only to surrender her advantage with a series of errors.

Emboldened by the break back, Yastremska pressured the Barty serve again in the eighth game of the set, but the opportunity to earn a crucial second break was spurned.

Barty was ruthless in punishing Yastremska's profligacy, and won the final 10 points of the match to seal an eighth WTA singles title.

She will face another Ukrainian, Lesia Tsurenko, in the first round of the Australian Open, while Yastremska will be expected to have little trouble against fellow teenager Kaja Juvan.

Elena Rybakina continued her strong start to 2020 by winning the Hobart International title on Saturday.

The Kazakh, 20, proved too good for Zhang Shuai 7-6 (9-7) 6-3 to claim her second WTA Tour crown.

Rybakina is in impressive form to begin the year, having also reached the final in Shenzhen this month.

She delivered in the decider this time, converting all three break points she created on her way to victory in one hour, 33 minutes.

Rybakina will hope to carry her good form into the Australian Open, facing Bernarda Pera in the opening round.

Petra Kvitova admitted she was worried about the air quality in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open, particularly as an asthma sufferer.

The year's first grand slam has been impacted by poor air quality in Victoria's capital after bushfires ravaged Australia in recent months.

Organisers have faced criticism during the qualifying rounds, although air quality has been rated as 'good' in Melbourne since Thursday.

Kvitova, who suffers from asthma, said the air was a concern heading into the grand slam.

"I've been a bit worried about it. Now I'm very happy that, as I mentioned, the sky, it's there again clearly," last year's runner-up told a news conference on Saturday.

"Of course everybody knows that I do have asthma problems, which I wasn't really happy about that if the air is still bad.

"It's same for everybody, so it will be really difficult to breathe for sure. I do have my medicines here, as well.

"Yeah, I'm going to use it if it's important."

However, Kvitova – who faces fellow Czech Katerina Siniakova in the first round – backed officials.

"Well, I'm very comfortable with everything they've taken," she said.

Naomi Osaka believes she is not as fearless as last year as she prepares for her Australian Open title defence.

The Japanese star claimed her second grand slam title in Melbourne in 2019, backing up her US Open success from just months prior.

But the 22-year-old, seemingly more aware of what was at stake, said she felt more fearless last year.

"I feel like last year I was young. Last year I feel like I was young. I was just this young kid that was going out. My goal was to win, and I wasn't going to let anything stop me," Osaka told a news conference on Saturday.

"I feel like now I appreciate more every single win because I know what it took to get it.

"Of course, I want to win every match and I want to go out there and do that. That's what I'm here for.

"I think maybe last year I was a little bit more fearless."

Osaka, the world number three, is again among the favourites and faces Marie Bouzkova in her first-round match.

Ashleigh Barty, the world's top-ranked player, is also expected to challenge and Osaka praised the Australian while talking down suggestions of a rivalry with a player she has met three times since the start of 2018.

"It's super weird. People keep asking me questions like we're rivals or something. She's in the finals of Adelaide right now," she said.

"I think obviously she's a great player. She's the number one ranked player in the world. I don't know, we've played really close matches."

Caroline Wozniacki insisted she was calm and just enjoying herself ahead of her final professional tournament at the Australian Open.

Wozniacki will retire after the Australian Open, which begins on Monday, ending a career that saw her win the title in Melbourne in 2018 and hold the top ranking.

The Dane, 29, said she was staying calm so far, but expects there to be emotion once her career is officially over.

"It's not a situation that I've ever been in. It's hard to tell," Wozniacki told a news conference on Saturday when asked if she would stay calm.

"So far I'm calm and just enjoying myself. I have my family here, which is great. I'm sure once the last ball is hit, it's going to be a bit emotional."

Wozniacki will face Kristie Ahn in the opening round in Melbourne, but said her approach had remained unchanged despite the circumstances.

"So far I've just approached it like any other tournament, but obviously it's different since it's my last one," she said.

"I'm just enjoying being out there. I've had some great practice sessions. I've done everything I could to prepare as well as I can for this tournament, then hope for the best."

Daniil Medvedev accepts the 'Big Three' will be hard to stop at the Australian Open, but said he was gaining confidence from facing the all-time greats.

After a superb 2019 that included a run to the US Open final, Medvedev is considered one of the contenders in Melbourne, where the year's first grand slam starts on Monday.

But 14 of the past 16 Australian Opens have been won by Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal, and the trio are again the favourites.

Medvedev, the fourth seed who will face Frances Tiafoe in a tricky opener, said regularly facing the greats gave him confidence.

"I think playing against them from time to time, especially the further you go in the big tournaments, the more chances you have to play them," he told a news conference on Saturday.

"The more times you play them, the more you know where you are comparing to them. For example, match in ATP Cup, Novak was kind of all over me. I managed to get back, almost win the match. I mean, he still won it. They won the whole ATP Cup. But I felt I was really close.

"Matches like this give you confidence to see that you're able to do it, but it's really tough."

Medvedev's run to the final at Flushing Meadows was the first time he had been beyond the fourth round of a grand slam.

The Russian, 23, said he was eyeing at least the quarter-finals in Melbourne this year.

"It's always tough to answer. Good Australian Open is to win it, but if you ask me what I'm going to be happy about, it always depends of course who you play, who you lose to," Medvedev said.

"But I would say I will be happy with quarters. As I always say, for me the first goal is to win it step by step.

"If I'm in quarters, I'm not going to be there and say, 'Okay, I've done my goal, it's enough for this tournament.'

"Any tournament I play, I want to win it. But quarters will be satisfying, I would say."

Rickie Fowler moved into a share of the lead at The American Express after shooting an eight-under 64 in the second round on Friday.

The American backed up his opening-round 65 with a stellar showing, this time at the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West in California.

Fowler produced a bogey-free round that included an eagle and six birdies as he climbed into 15 under.

He is joined atop the leaderboard by Scottie Scheffler, who shot a 64 on the same course to be alongside Fowler with a one-stroke lead.

Fowler made back-to-back birdies on holes 11 and 12 before delivering a strong finish, including the eagle at the par-five fourth – where a wonderful second shot set up a short putt.

Andrew Landry carded an eight-under 64 at La Quinta Country Club to be outright third at 14 under.

The round of the day belonged to Tony Finau, who carded a stunning 10-under 62 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course.

Finau was three under through his first nine holes before birdieing seven of his last nine to be outright fourth at 13 under.

Bud Cauley (64) is at 12 under, a shot ahead of Ted Potter Jr. (63), Im Sung-jae (66), Ryan Moore (65), Cameron Davis (67), Wes Roach (65) and Chase Seiffert (67).

Adam Long, last year's winner when the tournament was called the Desert Classic, is back at five under and tied for 68th.

Phil Mickelson has struggled to get going and sits in a tie for 110th at two under after rounds of 70 and 72.

Kyrie Irving stands by his criticism of some Brooklyn Nets team-mates and defended his leadership style as he insisted he is not a "f****** a*****e".

Irving – who joined the Nets as a free agent in the offseason – made headlines this week when he claimed the team had "glaring" needs following a 117-106 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

However, the 27-year-old, a one-time NBA champion and a six-time All-Star, believes he was right to criticise his team-mates and cites his career achievements as the basis for taking a leadership role.

"It's probably a tell-tale sign of the career that I've had, some of the moves that I've made individually as well as coming to different environments and organisations," Irving told reporters in a video shared by SNYtv.

"At the end of the day, it's an entertainment league. We're drama-filled, everything revolves on these media platforms, which is part of society. I can't really do anything about it, except really be a pillar in our locker room and when I'm out there, winning, that's what it comes down to.

"It's not like I'm a f****** a*****e shouting all of the time in the locker room.

"I'm going to continue to push, demand greatness from my team-mates and we go from there. If it's harsh as a leader or it's too much for anybody, you're not in our locker room – stay the f*** out, it's as simple as that."


Irving also insisted he has earned the right to be respected and listened to by his team-mates, as he attempts to propel the Nets towards a championship win.

"At the end of the day, my name is in a lot of people's mouths all of the time," Irving added.

"I've earned that respect because of how great I am as a player and there's still more goals I want to accomplish in this league and I can't do it without improving an organisation and winning a championship, and that's what it comes down to."

The Nets are eighth in the Eastern Conference with an 18-22 record for the season, with pacesetters the Milwaukee Bucks next up on Saturday.

Conor McGregor and Donald Cerrone weighed in at the 170-pound limit ahead of their fight at UFC 246 on Saturday.

Both fighters are considered natural lightweights and questions had been asked as to whether McGregor, who is making his return to the octagon after a 15-month absence since his submission loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov, would be able to hit his mark.

However, the duo tipped the scales at 170lbs on Friday in Las Vegas.

The fight is taking place at welterweight and McGregor hopes it will be the first of three bouts for him season, with his eyes seemingly set on Jorge Masvidal and a rematch with lightweight champion Khabib.

The outspoken Irishman likely needs a positive result against Cerrone, the all-time wins leader in UFC, if he is to have a chance of making such ambitions a reality.

McGregor's time away from mixed martial arts started with a six-month ban imposed after a post-fight brawl outside the cage marred his meeting with Khabib, and there was no escape from controversy in the intervening period.

The 31-year-old was arrested and charged with strong-armed robbery and criminal mischief last March after it was alleged he took a man's phone and smashed it on the ground in Miami – the charges were later dropped over inconsistencies in the victim's testimony. In November, he was fined €1,000 after pleading guilty to an assault of a man at a pub in Dublin.

McGregor went 1-1 in his two previous fights at welterweight, losing to Nate Diaz at UFC 196 before winning the rematch at UFC 202.

Cerrone has won six of his 10 previous outings at 170lbs but lost his past two fights at lightweight.

Francesco Laporta shot a sublime nine-under 63 to take a one-shot lead at halfway in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

The 124-ranked Laporta lit up the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club on Friday, birdying six of the last eight holes to move above Matt Fitzpatrick and Rafa Cabrera Bello, .

Laporta charged 49 places on the leaderboard to head into the weekend in the mix for a first European Tour title.

He hit the turn in 33, having made three gains on the front nine of a bogey-free round.

"I just want to enjoy the weekend," said the 29-year-old surprise front-runner, who will tee off on 10 under on Saturday.

"I played solid all 18 holes, my putting was solid, my driver, my irons. 

"I gave myself a lot of opportunities for birdies and so when I had the opportunities, I took them. Every time I was putting for birdie, I made it. It was a great day."

Fitzpatrick had set the clubhouse target with a five-under 67 following four birdies in the last six holes.

The Englishman is bogey-free for the week, sitting in a share of second with Cabrera Bello, who shot a four-under 68.

Cabrera Bello's countryman Sergio Garcia, Li Haotong and Renato Paratore are two shots adrift of Laporta.

Lee Westwood and Louis Oosthuizen are among five players on seven under, while world number one Brooks Koepka slipped back to three under with a three-over 75.

Defending champion Shane Lowry will not be retaining his title after the Open champion missed the cut.

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