Saturday 17 March 2018

'Congratulations, you’re rich now'- Conor McGregor welcomes Nate Diaz to his world

Conor McGreogr will fight Nate Diaz on March 5
Conor McGreogr will fight Nate Diaz on March 5

Tom Rooney

As to be wholly expected with the individuals involved, sparks flew when Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz shared a stage for the first time on Wednesday night as they demonstrated precisely why the UFC have paired them together.

Heading into his eighth UFC contest, McGregor has seen original opponents changed on four occasions, such is the increased rate of injury for fighters when readying for combat.

That he rarely, if ever, trains for a specific foe, means the Dubliner looked far from vexed by the news that lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos cannot compete at UFC 196 due to a broken foot.

However, it will grate, that his ambition to be the first man to concurrently hold titles in two different weight classes will have to be shelved for now.

Unsurprisingly, there was a considerable list of men agitating for a shot at McGregor, given he represents the sort of payday for opponents that no other fighter can.

But Diaz, as it became abundantly clear within moments of him opening his mouth at the packed UFC Gym in Torrance, California, was unquestionably the right choice.

Strangely, McGregor was the first of the two to take his place on the dais, swiftly followed by a phalanx of beefy looking security guards.

Presumably there to be a buffer zone had the Dubliner and his irascible foe decided to do away with the niceties of the vulgar exchanges that soon followed.

Once the initial school yard scatology concluded, an interesting and worthwhile episode unfolded. Uniquely, McGregor clearly has an admiration for Diaz’s blunt persona and take all comers attitude to his occupation.

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That Diaz was unwilling to sit in seething silence as the Crumlin man dismantled every aspect of his person will have only enhanced this.

It’s probably an interminable experience waiting for a worthy verbal sparring partner and, although Diaz is lacking the featherweight champion’s way with words, he gave as good as he got.

When asked for his thoughts on Diaz as his new opponent, McGregor was relatively polite, while referencing the Californian's protracted agitating for better purses from the UFC. He quickly returned to standard procedure however.

“First of all, everyone went quiet all of sudden. At least Nate was engaging in the conversation; everyone else went flat out running. That’s it, if you’re willing, able and want to step up and fight, I respect that. Like I said, Dos Anjos has a bruise on his foot.

“I’m happy to give Nate the pay cheque. He has been around a long time, he has stepped up and fought, he does deserve the pay cheque. Nate, congratulations, you’re rich now. How does it feel to be a millionaire now, it’s nice right?

Diaz has been a perennial top contender in the lightweight division for the last five years but, due to the lack of preparation time afforded to the American, the bout will be contested at 170lbs (welterweight).

The 30-year-old has fought three times in the welterweight bracket, though was only successful on one occasion. Yet, given McGregor was set to compete at 155lbs., such details should be of little consequence.

Diaz was last in action a week after McGregor usurped Jose Aldo as featherweight champion in December, and thoroughly dismantled the formidable Michael Johnson to earn a unanimous decision victory. In the aftermath, he called on McGregor.

He had not fought in the better part of a year due said dispute with the UFC over his compensation. Interestingly, the bout prior to his hiatus was against Dos Anjos, for which Diaz failed to make weight and was outclassed from bell to bell.

On these matters, McGregor couldn’t resist strategically dropping them into the discourse, despite not receiving a question even remotely on the topic.

“I don’t give a sh**, I’m just ready to fight now. 10 days out let’s see what this man is about. He talked like I took something from him, that’s what he said, after the fight (Johnson). I work like a motherf***er, and I don’t get out of shape.

“He gets out shape; his fight against Dos Anjos, he looked like the skinniest fat guy I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Like clockwork, McGregor was asked to look into his crystal ball for a prediction on how things will end on March 5 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. As ever, there was no ambiguity to Mystic Mac’s response.

"I feel his repetitive footwork and his pull motions are too readable. He will be too slow in there, my speed will stifle him; with his soft body and lack of preparation, he will not be able to handle the ferocity. End of the first I feel he will be put away.

"I respect Nate, don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot of pu&sies in this game and he is not one of them. But it’s business in there and he will be KO’d inside the first round. "

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