clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Nate Diaz explains how Conor McGregor fight came together: 'I'm the show'

New, 65 comments
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

TORRANCE, Calif. -- Nate Diaz was Conor McGregor's opponent of choice. That's about all the two men would agree on Wednesday at a UFC 196 press conference here at UFC Gym.

Diaz said that the UFC has been in contact with him about fighting McGregor since before UFC 189 when Jose Aldo pulled out of the main event against the brash Irishman.

"They've been calling me on and off for this guy since he was supposed to fight Aldo the first time," Diaz said. "They knew they were fighting me this whole camp, I'm sure. They put out a video of him talking sh*t on me at the MMA Awards like two weeks ago. You guys know something already?"

McGregor, the UFC featherweight champion, admitted that he has been interested in fighting Diaz since last July. He was not the first choice for UFC 196, though. That was Rafael dos Anjos, the UFC lightweight champion. McGregor's goal has been to have two UFC titles in separate weight classes at the same time, which no one has ever done.

When dos Anjos fell out of the fight with a broken foot Tuesday, McGregor's mind went back to Diaz. Frankie Edgar and Jose Aldo both couldn't do it. Donald Cerrone was a consideration, McGregor said, but Diaz has beaten Cerrone and dos Anjos finished "Cowboy" in the first round. Diaz was the leader in the clubhouse.

"At least Nate was engaging in the conversation," McGregor said. "Everyone else flat-out went running. Instantly, he became the frontrunner. And that's it."

McGregor said Diaz made it difficult at first, because he couldn't get down to the lightweight limit of 155 pounds. First, Diaz's team proposed the fight be at 160, then 165, McGregor. Finally, McGregor said he told UFC brass to just make it 170, so Diaz could be "comfortable."

That's not at all how Diaz saw it going down.

"They asked me to fight and I said yes -- from the beginning," Diaz said. "So whatever problems they had, I don't know. But I came ready to fight. Any weight class, it didn't matter. There was no hesitation on my part. I was ready to rock the whole time. I said it a few months ago."

The initial hold up could have been more of a financial one than a weight one. McGregor said he told the UFC to give Diaz what he was asking for.

"They gave me a f*ckload of money and you know what I said?" Diaz said. "I said, 'I want more of that sh*t.' How about that, motherf*cker? Think I'm taking some fight, f*ck that. Pay me. But they called me, I didn't ask."

Diaz did ask for McGregor after he beat Michael Johnson by unanimous decision at UFC on FOX 17 in December. He went after McGregor in an expletive-filled rant right after the fight and doubled down in a classic interview with MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani.

But when dos Anjos dropped out, Diaz said his team didn't pick up the phone. McGregor wanted Diaz, just like he wanted him in July when he ended up fighting and knocking out Chad Mendes.

"I felt pity on your broke ass," McGregor said. "I wanted to make you rich at UFC 189, but they took Mendes."

And it's obvious why this was a fight McGregor desired. UFC Gym was packed with thousands of people, who waited on line for hours on a balmy February day in Los Angeles.

The energy in the building was palpable. Most of them were McGregor fans, but there were quite a few chants for the Diaz brothers as well. It's doubtful that the turn out would have been as impressive for dos Anjos, an elite fighter with only a fraction of Diaz's fan following.

"I didn't ask," Diaz said. "They called repeatedly. For months. So congratulations to you, mother f*cker. I'm the show."