The rivalry between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz dominated the discussion in mixed martial arts for a majority of 2016, and with McGregor having seized the UFC lightweight strap at UFC 205, a rubber match between the two pay-per-view stars could very well be in the cards for sometime in 2017.
In a rare interview on Tuesday, Diaz's older brother Nick Diaz reflected on the record-breaking rematch at UFC 202, which McGregor won via majority decision in one of the best fights of the year. Nick lamented the fact that he was not allowed to corner his brother due to an outstanding fine he owed to the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) and speculated on whether his presence would have nudged the scales ever so slightly in Nate's favor.
"Just one inch, that's the difference between how that fight could've gone," Nick said on Opie Radio. "As far as I'm concerned, I definitely would've been that inch. ... They just wanted to keep me out of there. They know that it would've definitely helped him out a lot.
"I was seeing things in that fight that I would've called and told him. I was seeing things that he wasn't seeing, because I do these things and I know how they work out for me. It's kind of like a formula, you know what I mean? And I'm like, hey look, this is what you do. Come the third and fourth round, I think if I would've been there, we would've been able to put it together and got that guy (McGregor) out of there."
The Diaz brothers share a similar pressure-heavy boxing style, and the two have traditionally served as cornermen for one another throughout their lengthy fighting careers. However, in the case of the McGregor rematch at UFC 202, the NAC barred Nick from serving in his brother's corner unless Nick paid at least $25,000 of the $75,000 fine he still owed the commission for his controversial 18-month suspension for a sketchy marijuana test.
Nick also wasn't allowed in Nate's locker room or within six rows of the Octagon on fight night, and was prohibited from communicating with his brother or other coaches in the Octagon's vicinity. That left fellow Skrap Pack members Gilbert Melendez and Jake Shields to corner Nate with the help of the brothers' longtime boxing coach Richard Perez.
"The thing is, Melendez is there," Nick said. "The thing about Melendez is, he's great. He's really smart. He knows what he's looking at. But they're training partners, and so they're like kinda opposites stylistically, because he's more of a wrestler and he goes on top. So the things that Gilbert would tell him to do is more of like what Gilbert would do, and what I would tell him to do is more of what [Nate] would do.
"I'm not saying that it wasn't helping having Gilbert there telling him to do the wrong stuff -- Gilbert wasn't necessarily telling him to do the wrong stuff, he just wasn't going to see the things that I was seeing. So that was kinda rough. It's hard enough to watch being there, and I'm watching on TV, I can't do anything. ... I thought he had [McGregor] out of there, for sure, at one point in time. The third round, I guess. I was like, there's just no way you're coming back from that."
Nick said he ended up watching the fight in the luxury box of sports agent James Ballengee and was miserable trying to stop himself from freaking out in front of a bunch of "expensive people" as his younger brother fought in the biggest fight of his life.
In the end, McGregor persevered through near-catastrophic circumstances to defeat Nate and even the series at one apiece, while Nick was left to watch from afar and mull over the advice he would've given his brother, which will now have to wait until the inevitable rubber match.
"I would've told him not to throw punches at that dude at all, because he's going to sit there and watch you and try to counter everything," Nick said. "So all you do is fake at him and flick at him and f*ck with him, and that's how you do that. But he went out there and just, he just didn't have it together in the first round, and I think I could've clicked him into the right mindset.
"Plus, me standing in front of him, fooling around with him and standing in front of him with my right hand forward -- all three of us stand the same way, so he doesn't have anybody else like that to kinda work with him, and I just think that it would've definitely helped out having me there a little bit."