LAS VEGAS -- For the first time in his UFC run, fans not only saw Conor McGregor look mortal. We saw him rocked with a punch, try to take an opponent down out of desperation and then get choked out.
The McGregor that knocked out Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes was not the one who submitted by Nate Diaz in the second round Saturday night in the main event of UFC 196 here at MGM Grand. That McGregor was a 145-pound featherweight; this one weighed in at 168 pounds to fight a bigger man in Diaz.
And that difference in size played a huge difference.
"I feel I was simply inefficient with my energy," McGregor said at the post-fight press conference. "Usually, when I fight a man in the division I am champion in and they crumble under those shots. But Nate took them very well. I think the weight allowed him to take those shots well."
McGregor (19-3) won the first round. He landed many, many punches to Diaz's head, opening up cuts and bringing out bruising. But Diaz never went down like Aldo or Mendes or Dustin Poirier or Dennis Siver. He kept moving forward. McGregor hit him with the hardest punches he had and Diaz was never rocked or hurt.
In the second round, McGregor continued that onslaught, but clearly could not keep the pace. Diaz rocked him with a right hand, McGregor shot in and that put the Irishman where Diaz wanted him: on the ground. There, Diaz landed ground and pound, got into mount, took McGregor's back and tapped him out with a rear-naked choke.
"I enjoyed the fact that a person could take the shots and keep coming," McGregor said "He kept his composure. He went into almost autopilot mode with the shots. His face was busted up. And I went into panic mode. It was just a shift of energy and he capitalized on it. I think with a bit of adjustment and a bit of recognition it must take more than one, more than two, more than three to put the heavier man away. I think if I go in with that mindset at a heavier weight I think I will do fine again."
That won't be what's next, though, most likely. McGregor said he would probably go down to defend his 145-pound title against either Jose Aldo or Frankie Edgar.
This was not the plan. McGregor wanted to fight Robbie Lawler for the welterweight title if he beat Diaz and that could have been the headliner at UFC 200. It won't happen now with 170 pounds looking like a daunting challenge for McGregor.
"It's a tough pill to swallow, but we can either run from adversity or we can face our adversity head on and conquer it," McGregor said of the loss. "And that's what I plan to do. It wasn't ideal, I got caught. It is what it is. I'll face it. I'll take it on the chin. And I'll carry on. I'll learn from it. And that's it."
McGregor, 27, does think he'll be ready for UFC 200 on July 9 back here in Vegas at the new MGM arena.
"I'm not cut," McGregor said. "I'm simply heartbroken and that's it. I'll pick myself up and we'll figure it out in the morning."
McGregor spoke with Joe Rogan in the Octagon after the fight. He attended the post-fight press conference and did an interview on FOX Sports 1. "The Notorious" handed things as well as he could after the tough loss.
"I will never shy away from a challenge," McGregor said. "I will never shy away from defeat. This is part of the game. I am happy to come out there, continue and stay in this fight. I had many chances to not do this and sit and wait. But I went in, I took the fight and it didn't pay off. This is the fight business. It's another day. I'll come back."