'Nate Diaz could take a hell of a shot' - Conor McGregor explains what went wrong
CONOR McGREGOR admitted that he panicked under the spotlight of his welterweight debut as a first defeat since 2010 forced the Notorious into answering some hard questions after UFC 196.
Nate Diaz bounced back from a punishing open round and half to crash through McGregor's defence in the second round of their headline bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, the Californian submitted McGregor by read naked choke and in the process bringing the Dubliner's blistering run in mixed martial arts to a shuddering stop.
"It's a bitter pill to swallow," said McGregor, magnanimous in the unfamiliar surrounds of sitting to the left of the post-fight stage with fellow loser Holly Holm. "I took a shot and went at it. I was simply inefficient with my energy. Nate took [my shots] very well. The weight helped him take those shots. I was inefficient with my energy. I made errors.
"His range was a factor, my left hand was falling short. My wheel kicks missed and that did more to my energy than his. It was a battle of energy in there and he won. This is the game. I am happy to have come out and continue and stay in this fight. It didn't pay off. This is the fight business. It's another day. I will come back."
McGregor had dominated the opening round first reddening Diaz's jaw with a strong left hand and later opening up a deep cut under the 30-year-old's right eye. Yet the devastating left hand that had got McGregor to the very top of the sport didn't seem to have nearly as much impact on this bigger opponent.
"It is what it is," continued McGregor, about an hour after the Grand Garden Arena had been left in a stunned blur by two champions being down in the space of 30 startling minutes. "It was me fighting a heavier man and he could take a hell of a shot. He and Nick [Diaz's elder fighting brother] have that style. They can take it. He stayed in my face and capitalised on it. I make no excuses. This is...what it is. I came up short. He went into autopilot and I went into panic mode.
"I was connecting with him [in the first round] and his were whizzing past the head. But in the second round he popped me with a left and caught me off balance. He got my neck. [I tried to] do similar to the Chad [Mendes fight] where I rolled and came back to my knees. I simply didn't have it in me. There's many lessons to be learned but I'm happy that I will learn and grow and come back."
This defeat may have been the first of McGregor's UFC career but it was the third of his professional life - all of them by submissions. The 27-year-old had spoken in the past how tapping out to a quick rear naked choke in his most recent defeat to this six years ago had left him traumatised. He expected that this tap, on a much grander stage and on a night when pay-per-view eyes may have hit record levels, was going to gnaw just as feverishly.
"You're damn right [it will]," he said, head bowed. "It's a tough pill to swallow. We can run from adversity or we can face our adversity head on."