LAS VEGAS -- Big-money fights. Real fighters. Staying true to martial arts.
These are things Conor McGregor talks about a lot. They're also things Nate Diaz has discussed in interviews for years.
"I've been already talking that, before he was even in the UFC," Diaz said Wednesday at open workouts. "And now he's this new guy with all this new stuff coming out and everybody is pushing him, everyone is like, 'yeah!' and it's on every article, every headline, because he's from Ireland."
Diaz knows why McGregor has become one of the biggest stars in UFC history, shattering gate records and posting incredible pay-per-view numbers. But he doesn't believe the things McGregor says are all that different from what he has been saying for a long time.
"I'm a big fan of what he does, too," Diaz said. "He puts it out there, he says the real sh*t. Just like I say. I got more criticism toward the push than he's getting."
Diaz said he used to want to talk about big-money fights, but he thinks people in the UFC or the media wanted to silence him. They didn't want him to break down the fourth wall, so to speak. Things have changed with McGregor, whom Diaz will fight Saturday night in the main event of UFC 196 here at MGM Grand.
"They're like taking him on like, 'Go ahead, keep talking,'" Diaz said. "With me, they're like, 'Put him in the back. Put him on the down low.'
"Just the way he says it's a money fight. I've been saying that forever, too. But they got wind of that and they tried to shut me up, they tried to quiet me down."
Two years ago, UFC president Dana White notably said Diaz did not "move the needle." It's a quote that probably haunts White to this day, because Diaz has upped the interest in this event against McGregor. Before last week, McGregor was trying to make history against lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos. McGregor is the UFC featherweight champion and no one has ever held two UFC belts in two different division sat the same time.
Dos Anjos went out with a broken foot Feb. 23 and Diaz stepped in on short notice. A day after the new fight was booked, McGregor and Diaz drew a massive crowd to UFC Gym in Los Angeles for a press conference. Another large assemblage showed up in Vegas on Wednesday for open workouts. McGregor is a huge draw, of course. But Diaz's presence has meant something.
"I knew this already, though," Diaz said. "I knew how the needle moved. I knew who moved the needle. ... I knew this was gonna happen sooner or later."
Diaz might have felt silenced in the past. But those days are over. He's on center stage this week and the masses have responded.
"I don't know if it's the media or the UFC, but I feel like they didn't want my stock getting any higher," he said. "But they couldn't stop it. Look where I'm at right now."