Diaz vows: It's no McGregor show
Published 03/03/2016 | 02:30
Even Sin City can sometimes live for the weekend. Conor McGregor rolled into the desert in the early hours of Wednesday morning and it will have seemed a little quieter than what he is used to.
McGregor, the UFC's leading man, has whipped Las Vegas into a frenzy on his two most recent visits to the capital city of fighting - July and December bouts that resulted in him becoming first interim and then outright featherweight champion of the organisation.
However, after a barnstorming 2015 when his long-held promise to not just take part but take over mixed martial arts came to pass in electrifying fashion, his first appearance of 2016 could struggle to match those highs. It was at least hard to escape that feeling around the MGM Grand here on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
A huge real estate conference had instead taken hold of the mega casino and venue for McGregor's re-arranged UFC 196 showdown with Nate Diaz on Saturday night. And while the key topics of profits, performance and sell, sell, sell would all have been right up McGregor's alley, the contrast with the last time we had walked through the place - the night of the Notorious's crushing 13-second KO of Jose Aldo Jr in December - was stark.
Irish fans have never been known for a tendency to arrive anywhere early but the expectations are that they won't travel in such huge numbers this time round - tickets for the fight remain readily available here. Pay-per-view TV numbers shape to be more immune though with UFC chiefs confident of again hitting the one-million mark.
As is his style, McGregor brought the spotlight very much back to himself late on Wednesday with his first public appearance of fight week, a public workout in the MGM, an hour after Diaz had also strutted for the cameras and fans present.
"I hope it goes longer than the Jose [Aldo] fight so I have an opportunity to educate the public on a new age of fighting," the Dubliner said in a brief radio interview. "When I look at [Nate], I see a soft midsection that I am going to butcher."
The 30-year-old Californian has stepped into the void left behind by McGregor's original opponent, Rafael Dos Anjos, on 11 days' notice. The Brazilian lightweight world champion suffered a broken foot that put paid to McGregor's chances of becoming the first fighter in the sport to simultaneously hold titles from two different weight divisions.
Instead, Saturday will now represent McGregor's first fight at welterweight, the Dubliner again leaving logic and precedent to the side to move up two divisions in three months, the 25lb jump representing roughly a 20 per cent increase in body weight. McGregor has insisted this is all of a piece with his position at the forefront of the sport, but Diaz disagrees.
"It's no McGregor show. It's a fight that needed to happen. I'm the biggest fight," said Diaz, a veteran motormouth who has proven he can at least go toe to toe with his vaunted rival in the trash-talking stakes. "The [McGregor camp] knew they were fighting me already. They were already training for me. They knew what's up. But hey, don't trip. They were plotting on me, I might have been plotting back too. You never know."
Diaz took up the UFC's offer which came gift-wrapped in green - even a quieter McGregor night represents a massive pay day for his opponents - on incredibly short notice.
It's not in his nature to shirk from a fight, however he did admit it could come back to bite him on Saturday night at the Garden Arena.
"I think you should beat everybody on your worst day, but you can never be ready enough for a fight anyway. I might get murked. I don't care, though. It's all good. Or he might [get badly beaten].
"It would have been nice to get a camp. I've went to camps, trained hard and fought like s**t.
"Three weeks later, after eating as much as I want, hanging out, not doing nothing, I came in and whooped everybody's ass in the gym anyway. So we'll see what happens."