Martial arts fighter McGregor back in court, says regrets Brooklyn melee

NEW YORK, June 14 (Reuters) - Irish mixed martial arts fighter Conor McGregor returned to court in New York on Thursday and expressed regret for his role in a melee at an April event to publicize a series of Ultimate Fighting Championship fights at a Brooklyn arena.

The 29-year-old former lightweight champion and his co-defendant and fellow Irish fighter, Cian Cowley, 23, were negotiating a plea deal over assault and criminal mischief charges stemming from the fracas, prosecutors said at a brief hearing in state Supreme Court in Brooklyn.

Judge Raymond Rodriguez adjourned the case until July 26. McGregor, dressed in a tailored dark check suit and striped tie, walked out as photographers chased him to a waiting vehicle.

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"I regret my actions that led me here today," McGregor, one of the sport's most recognizable stars, told reporters outside court afterward. "I understand the seriousness of this matter and I am hopeful that it gets resolved soon."

Video footage of the melee in an underground parking area at the Barclays Center arena appears to show McGregor and his entourage using a metal barricade and other objects to smash windows on a bus filled with fighters leaving the media event.

One fighter on the bus was hit and cut by a dolly thrown through the window, and the cornea of another fighter's eye was cut as the glass shattered into dust-like material, according to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) entertainment franchise.

Within hours, McGregor had surrendered to police. A New York judge released him on $50,000 bail.

At the time, the Dublin-based pugilist was angered by the UFC's decision to strip him of his title, according to profanity-laden messages he wrote on Twitter. He last fought in a UFC bout in November 2016, when he defeated Eddie Alvarez at New York's Madison Square Garden to win the lightweight belt.

He never defended the title, though he took on boxer Floyd Mayweather last August in a conventional boxing match. His technical knockout loss to Mayweather was the second biggest pay-per-view fight in history.

The UFC was founded in 1993 and popularized cage fighting. It holds dozens of fights around the world every year that have surpassed pro wresting and boxing in popularity, and are broadcast in more than 156 countries, reaching 1.1 billion households.

In July 2016, the UFC said it had agreed to be bought by talent agency WME-IMG in a transaction a source valued at $4 billion, one of the largest price tags for a sports brand. (Reporting by Jonathan Allen; editing by Daniel Wallis and Jonathan Oatis)