After being doubted and disregarded as a sacrificial lamb for much of the past two weeks, Nate Diaz made sure his point would be heard the moment UFC 196 came to a close. His second-round submission win over Conor McGregor? It wasn't an upset. Hell, it wasn't even a surprise.
"I knew I was the superior boxer, the superior martial artist," Diaz said at Saturday's post-fight press conference. "I have superior jiu-jitsu. Like I said from the beginning, I have the best training partners in the world in every aspect; in boxing, kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, and MMA, so nothing surprised me except that I got hit at all.
"I think with a full camp I would've been flawless. But it's whatever, I'm not surprised. He got a lot of push. He's been doing great and he's got a lot of help behind him. I just wish I had the same push, the same help. I've been in this a long time. It'll be nine years, this is my 25th fight here in the UFC, and I've been -- in the last few years -- curious when this is going to pay off. And I think it's time now."
Despite riding into the bout on extremely short notice, Diaz did what no other fighter has been able to do inside the UFC Octagon: beat McGregor at his own game.
After weathering a rough opening round, the 30-year-old Stockton native caught McGregor with a crushing series of punches early in the second, then submitted the Irishman with a nasty rear-naked choke, putting an end to McGregor's cross-divisional exploits and cutting short his 15-fight win streak.
"I've been hit with everything," Diaz said. "The hardest stuff by 168-pound fighters. I spar with heavyweight fighters and I've been hit with everything, so, he punches hard. He's a hard-hitting little guy. But (it's) nothing I've never felt before. And I expect if I get hit by anybody, it's probably going to be hard. But if you ain't taking me out, you're going to get taken out. Straight up."
The performance was made even more remarkable due to the simple fact that Diaz was never supposed to be there in the first place. McGregor's initial goal was to challenge UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos and make history by becoming the only UFC fighter to ever hold two concurrent titles. Once dos Anjos dropped out with a broken foot, a mad scramble ensued to find a replacement.
That Diaz ended up getting the call -- less than two years after UFC president Dana White infamously called Diaz "not a needle mover" -- is just icing on the cake for the younger son of Stockton.
"My fights are always pulling big numbers," Diaz said. "They always stick me on FOX, for some reason. They were pushing me on those FOX cards, I was bringing more numbers than anybody, but nobody pays attention to that. I got a big following between me and my brother. They come in hard ... so I feel like I brought in a lot, and it made the fight a lot more entertaining, a lot more interesting than the dos Anjos fight."
Diaz's win sent a ripple effect through three separate UFC divisions -- such is the power of McGregor.
While the Irishman will now likely return back to 145 and defend his UFC featherweight title, the title picture at both lightweight and welterweight is wide open, and Diaz could have his options moving forward.
"I'm at the top, so it's their call what's next," Diaz said. "We'll see what happens."