clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor are fighting the middleman as much as each other

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The fibs and fabrications are still thick in the air, but what’s funny is the fight within the fight to face Conor McGregor has rapidly boiled down to two names, and neither of them are Frankie Edgar or Rafael dos Anjos — dudes he was supposed to be (or should be) fighting. It’s come down to Nate Diaz, who stepped in for the injured RDA and dealt McGregor his first UFC loss to record-breaking numbers at UFC 196, and Floyd Mayweather, the collective sigh heard drifting over from the boxing world.

The latter borders on bad fiction, and continues to make no sense from a fight perspective. It is money fascination between fun-loving mercenaries that would end up making one or the other look foolish, depending on which rules are in play (…and, on second thought, might be all the allure we need). The other is a reluctant, grudge-laden, do-over job between Diaz and McGregor that people began to get on board with after much grumbling when it was dangled for UFC 200.

After Wednesday, though, Diaz has got to be the leading candidate out of any possible opponent for McGregor. Make the damn rematch, already.

Diaz appeared on a special edition of The MMA Hour for an actual hour-long conversation that serendipitously ended at exactly 2:09 in the afternoon on the west coast. Diaz said his share of f*ck words, but many of them were tied to pretty intricate thoughts patterns, some of which made sense. And in the end, Diaz somehow ended up making more sense than the fight ever has. How does that work, you ask? It’s a symptom of listening to any Diaz speak his mind.

The gist of what Diaz reiterated over the course of many fascinating digressions was simply this: "Whatever." Diaz will take the rematch with McGregor, or he’ll leave it. On this his convictions were fairly strong. And why not? He’s at the epicenter of his negotiating power to strike it bigger than anything he’s known, including the chip on his shoulder.

Though he didn’t straight out say it, Diaz pushed forward the idea that it’s a travesty how he’s been paid/treated in compared to Conor McGregor.  As such, he seemed pretty content to let the UFC twist in the wind. He explained that he thought the Mayweather stuff floating out there was a "publicity stunt," something to get him on the dotted line for McGregor’s big mulligan. He went behind the curtain and dished out little details of his talks with the UFC brass (including his meeting in Stockton, which he said wasn’t the worst meeting, and then again nor the best).

It was pretty fascinating. But hearing him open up also had broader reach.

Regardless of how you feel about the narrow confines of the fight itself, you’ve got to admit there’s a lot more going on. For instance, there are so many anti-authority notes playing over one another that the competition isn’t even between Diaz and McGregor — it’s between both guys and the UFC. Whoever has complained about Zuffan hegemony over the years (seemingly everyone) might be fascinated by the power angles these cats are taking against The Man.

McGregor didn’t want to do publicity for UFC 200, and therefore got lopped down to size by the UFC and removed from the card. Now they are looking at UFC 202 in August as his return, should no other snags come up. Diaz has heard that date, too, but he wants to be paid what he thinks he’s worth for his side of the selling. Neither is carrying on rosily with the UFC. McGregor felt the sting a bit for his insubordination, as he admitted on ESPN’s Sportscenter, but he hardly seemed contrite for his actions.

Diaz simply holds more cards than he ever has in his life, and his poker face is smiling.

If the rematch didn’t thrill people out of the gate, maybe it will begin to carry a different import now. Here are both guys, feuding semi-publicly with each other, and semi-publicly with the UFC, both fully aware of their worth at this moment. If the second fight isn’t historical in pay-per-view buys whenever it comes together, it might be in other ways.

Maybe this is one of those moments where the fighters are fighting the good fight first, and each other second. It takes two strong personalities to push the envelope, and though Diaz and McGregor came together under strange circumstances at UFC 196, sometimes the needle moves almost by accident.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting