Wednesday 21 March 2018

The gospel according to Nate Diaz: What Conor McGregor should do next

20 August 2016; Conor McGregor of Ireland ahead of his welterweight bout against Nate Diaz of USA at UFC 202 in the T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, USA. Photo by Joshua Dahl/Sportsfile
20 August 2016; Conor McGregor of Ireland ahead of his welterweight bout against Nate Diaz of USA at UFC 202 in the T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, USA. Photo by Joshua Dahl/Sportsfile

Tom Rooney

No sooner had Conor McGregor been awarded a majority decision victory over Nate Diaz after the toughest 25 minutes of his professional life at UFC 202, and the maelstrom of speculation as to what he’d do next quickly spun into overdrive.

The adjectives to describe the hardest earned win of McGregor’s career are manifold. This was, of course, a rematch, after Diaz had so decisively defeated him via second round submission at UFC 196 in March.

Indeed, the vast majority of McGregor’s contemporaries had predicated that he would suffer the same fate at the hands of the grisly veteran at the T-Mobile Arena in Sin City, but the 28-year-old prevailed.

So, was this a triumph rooted in vengeance, validation, catharsis or perseverance? Perhaps it’s best leaving such decisions in the eye of the beholder.

Striking a more practical note, the win reopens doors to the Dubliner which had partially closed five months ago, and would have most certainly shut for good had he not got the job done last night. Simply put, he has options, all of them lucrative.

Conor McGregor stands over Nate Diaz during their welterweight mixed martial arts bout at UFC 202

Dana White has stated that he must return to featherweight and defend his title against the interim champion Jose Aldo, who he usurped last December at UFC 194 in just 13 seconds.

Should he refuse to do so, then he will be stripped of the belt, or so White says. The rematch would generate plenty of hype and capital, but McGregor didn’t seem particularly pushed by that prospect at the post fight press event early this morning.

The win over Diaz also gives him leverage to agitate for a shot at the lightweight crown now held by Eddie Alvarez. This was the point all along, to be the first man ever to concurrently hold two titles, but Rafael Dos Anjos got injured before Diaz strangled McGregor into reassessing his objectives.

To earn that mantle, the UFC may allow their biggest star to hold on to his featherweight strap a little longer.

Anyone even causally acquainted with the UFC will know all too well that Dana White frequently breaks promises, and that their meritocracy counts for little in the face of commerce.

Contrarily, Nate Diaz has taken the position that, unless he’s offered another fight with McGregor, the matchmakers shouldn’t bother picking up the phone.

Last night was the Californian’s 30th career fight, 23 of which have been in the UFC, but his two bouts with McGregor have earned him a greater windfall than the previous 28 combined.

Thanks to his impromptu rivalry with the man from Crumlin, Diaz is, after a decade in the trenches, a bone fide millionaire.

Speaking following the battle with McGregor, Diaz claimed that he was the only worthwhile fight for the Dubliner to consider next.

Diaz has fought just six times at welterweight, the rest have been at his natural home of lightweight (155lbs) and he also said he was more than happy to contest the trilogy bout there, as ‘The Notorious’ last night stipulated.

“Nothing else interests me. We’re fighting for a big payday, and nobody else out here is making a big enough deal to fight.

“So when Conor is ready to do his thing, there’s no rush, take your time, have a vacation, or as soon as they want to set it up, I’m ready to roll.

“What else is he going to do? Go ahead and go to 145lbs (featherweight), you’re meant to be a business man, that’s not a very good business move.”

Of the fight, Diaz said that he was sure he won by three rounds to two, and was not too enamoured by McGregor’s tactics of evasion, for which the former thinks the latter should have been reprimanded.

Conor McGregor kicks Nate Diaz during their welterweight rematch at the UFC 202

“I thought I won at least three rounds to two – I don’t think that was even in question. I think I won the fight….but it’s all good, I got paid.

“I think he did a lot of running in that fight, and I’ve been saying, my brother has been saying, you should get a yellow card for that type of thing. He ran the whole fight. I feel like they should have taken a point for that.”

Diaz also cited two injuries he sustained in the lead up to the showdown and claimed they had a detrimental effect on his performance and tactical approach.

Had he been in McGregor’s position, the 31-year-old claimed, the fight would not have gone the distance.

“To top it off I was injured coming into the fight, and that ain’t some excuse either, I got the whole thing on tape. I hurt my knee about a month ago and I wasn’t able to train jiu-jitsu for a month.

“I really hurt my rib sparring boxing and I had to stop sparring about two and half weeks ago. And, I got all that on tape, just to set that off that I’m making excuses.

“They (injuries) really messed up my strategy on some things I wanted to do and get done. It kind of took from my whole game plan and kind of made it, ‘ok, let’s just get through this fight’. So I think I was worse off for this fight than the first one.

“He should have finished me off; if I was fighting me, I would have taken me clean out. That’s my take on the whole fight.”

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