Back in February, in the midst of the hurricane that surrounded UFC 196, Conor McGregor made his prediction against Nate Diaz known from the outset. He was going to knock Diaz out inside the first round and that would be that.
Of course, real life is rarely that simple, and try as he might, McGregor never could put Diaz away in that opening frame. He then went out and promptly suffered his first UFC defeat at the hands of Diaz's second-round rear-naked choke.
But the failure of UFC 196 did little to change McGregor's bravado, and the reigning UFC featherweight champion promised to pay Diaz back with his latest prediction for the rematch at UFC 202.
"If I really look at it, he has a solid chin, he's durable, very experienced, he has the size and the weight on me -- I think that was the wrong thing to go and expect (the knockout) in the first round," McGregor said Friday on a UFC 202 conference call. "And I did go out to KO him in the first round. I can say that. I marched forward and backed him up against the fence and teed off on his head. I did what I said I would do. But respect to him, he stood out, he's durable, he's experienced, he weathered the storm.
"This time, I'm still going to march forward, I'm still going to press him, I'm still going to bust him. There's just going to be a lot more in my tank. I'm just going to be a lot more prepared for a man who can stay in there with me, but even still, I struggle to give him past round three. If I was to make a prediction, which I will right now, I believe I will repay the favor and KO him inside the second round."
McGregor and Diaz are slated to meet Aug. 20 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, fighting atop one of the most-anticipated pay-per-views of the year.
McGregor has long maintained that he lost the first fight because he gave "no respect" to Diaz's experience and durability as a fighter, and he repeated that belief on Friday, admitting that he underestimated how difficult it would be to overcome Diaz's height and reach advantages. However when it came to the facet of the game which drew McGregor the most criticism -- his ground game -- the Irishman brushed away any perceived advantages Diaz may hold over him.
"I'm confident in my jiu-jitsu," McGregor said. "Nate is very skilled on the mat. I don't think the difference between us in that fight was the jiu-jitsu. I think it was the durability, the endurance, the experience. I think that was the difference.
"When we were both fresh, I ended up on the mat, he caught that kick from that takedown he does and I swept him. So, I was on top controlling the first round. He tried a triangle, I stopped that. He looked to pass, he looked to tie me up with the legs, I was landing shots. I am confident on the mat with Nate. And now, after that, I brought in heavier people, more experienced jiu-jitsu people to come and push me daily, so I will be experienced for the jiu-jitsu in the later rounds also."
With the lead-up to UFC 202 now officially underway, the stakes continue to rise for both McGregor and Diaz.
A second loss to Diaz would put McGregor in unprecedented territory -- a champion who suffered back-to-back defeats before even attempting to defend his own belt. However a win would re-open the door to the lightweight division and right many of the wrongs McGregor believes he suffered at UFC 196, and McGregor is confident he has put in the work to make that outcome his reality.
"I am an expert at adaptation and overcoming adversity," McGregor said. "I've been doing it my whole life and I've faced many defeats in all forms, not just MMA but in everything, and I've always come back stronger. We win or we learn, that's what my coach John says, and that's what we do. I feel I've grown as a fighter, I've gained some valuable experience. Usually when I go in, I hit them, they go down. That's it. My division, I kill them. Check my record. Four second knockout, 3.5 second knockout if you want to be accurate. I knocked Aldo out in 11 seconds if you want to be accurate. Sixteen-second knockouts on my record. When I hit them, they fall.
"So it was nice to go in there and face a man who, although he was close to crumbling, he stuck in there and showed his experience and durability. It was nice to experience that, and now I have a chance to go back in and use what I have learned from that fight and go at it again. So I'm very, very excited for this fight. It's going to be a hell of a fight. The last one was a hell of a fight. We went in there, we stood toe-to-toe. The fans are in for a treat, but make no mistake, my hand will be raised."