White said it wasn’t exactly an easy road to book Diaz against Khamzat Chimaev at UFC 279, but the Stockton, Calif., native wanted the fight — and, the UFC exec said, the public wanted it as well.
“I care about Nate a lot,” White said in his post-fight press conference after Tuesday’s Contender Series event. “I like Nate, and Nate came in here, long before that fight was ever made, and we were talking about it being his last fight, and I said, ‘Listen, kid. You think about the wars that Nate Diaz has put on and the incredible fights and the big fights that he’s done with us, go do whatever you want to do, man.’
“But getting a fight done with him isn’t as easy as seems. Everybody’s like, ‘Well, why don’t you make a fight?’ Well, he asked for Francis Ngannou. I could go on forever, but I won’t. We got it done. That’s the fight he wanted.”
Earlier this month, Diaz made a special appearance on The MMA Hour to plead for a fight so he could fulfill his current contract and pursue other combat sports ventures. He accused the UFC of holding him “hostage” by dangling more lucrative contract offers instead of booking the fight. He also detailed a meeting where he said White pitched several fights, then unexpectedly left the meeting after he declined a new contract. Diaz said he realized when he’d been ditched, he urinated on the building’s lawn.
Diaz did name Ngannou and middleweight champion Israel Adesanya as two opponents he felt were worthy of his efforts given their stature and performances in the octagon. But he also said he was willing to fight any opponent offered by the UFC for his final fight, including Chimaev, whom he said turned down an initial offer.
Diaz hypothesized that the UFC was holding him under contract in order to have him complete a trilogy with Conor McGregor, his rival and two-time opponent. White didn’t dispute the possibility of a third meeting, but said it wasn’t offered any time between 2020 and now due to the broken leg from which McGregor is healing.
“Conor’s not ready yet,” White said. “Conor’s leg isn’t healed yet. Nate could obviously sit around and wait for that, but he doesn’t want it. I don’t know what he’s got planned or what he’s thinking, but right here, right now, he’s ready to fight. He wants to go, and we’re going.
“That’s one of those fights you can do any time, but no, it never worked out that way. Listen, if you get two guys like Conor and Nate, who want to fight each other bad enough, it ends up happening.”
On several occasions, McGregor’s best move has appeared to be a showdown with Diaz, who famously submitted him at UFC 196 and then took him the distance at UFC 202. But White said he won’t be upset if the trilogy doesn’t happen.
“No, it’s not like, ‘Oh God, I never got the chance to make No. 3,” he said. “The first two were awesome. That first round with Conor and Nate in the first fight was insane. Conor was landing these crazy bombs, then Diaz comes out in that second round. It was madness, and then the second fight was awesome. If it happens, it happens, but we got enough out of the first two.”
Chimaev, on the other hand, is a fresh matchup for Diaz. Many MMA observers, including current and former fighters, have blasted the pairing as a blatant mismatch. Former UFC commentator Dan Hardy even called it criminal and said the promotion was staging an “assassination.”
White said that when Diaz and Chimaev step into the octagon, people will tune in to watch.
“We made it, and here we are,” he said. “And it’s a good fight. It’s a fight people want to see. It’s a fight that people will be interested in, so we’re going to do it.”
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