Wednesday 21 March 2018

'UFC are hoping I don't win'- Diaz says second victory over McGregor would change everything

UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor (L) and lightweight contender Nate Diaz (R)
UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor (L) and lightweight contender Nate Diaz (R)

Tom Rooney

At this late stage in the day, more fool the UFC brass for the myopic and consistently futile means by which they deify only a select few of the athletes in their employ.

It’s commendable but redundant. Aside from the fact that Dana White and the Fertitta brothers already lord over a billion dollar company and, indeed, monopolise the fluxed industry in which it resides, it also flies in the face of the volatilities that make elite MMA so compelling,

Unbeaten runs invariably end, wholesome personas are sullied, while antagonists who are initially deemed invigorating soon become incessant and tiresome.

Just last night, Jon Jones, unquestionably the greatest fighter in history, once more left the UFC holding a very expensive can.

Jones was due to fight light-heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier in the main event of UFC 200 on Saturday night in Las Vegas but, he’s been pulled from the show after USADA revealed he tested positive for a banned substance out of competition.

Of course, Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz were supposed to close out the show, but the Dubliner refused to show for a press event in April and the UFC cancelled the rematch.

Without reliving the debacle again, the situation was rectified and the pair will conclude their business at UFC 202 on August 20.

Tonight, as a means of truly kicking off International Fight Week in Las Vegas, Diaz and McGregor will be in the David Copperfield Theatre for what promises to be a volcanic press event.

They have not been in such close confines since, on just 11 days’ notice, Diaz shattered what veneer of invincibility McGregor held at UFC 196 in March. It was, without doubt, one of the great upsets.

In a makeshift welterweight bout, Diaz survived an early onslaught from McGregor, before submitting him in the second round via rear naked choke. Subsequently, it was presumed that the UFC ‘s latest golden goose was cooked.

Conor McGregor, below, in action against Nate Diaz during their welterweight bout. Picture credit: Mark J. Rebilas / SPORTSFILE

McGregor, the featherweight champion, petitioned for a rematch and was granted one, thus leaving the division in a state of stasis. On Saturday, Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar will fight for the interim belt.

Nate Diaz is a cult hero within a cult sport. He hauls around a gargantuan chip on his shoulder, spitting expletives with reckless abandon, all the while berating those who pay his wages at every opportunity.

In an industry with no shortage of those who detest McGregor, it was arguably most appropriate that Diaz was the one to temporarily stunt his ascendency.

In a recent interview with Yahoo Sports, he was happy to revel in his handy work. 

“I (expletive) up everyone’s plan by winning that fight. I was like, ‘Ha, ha, you (expletives), call me for the next one, you better come with something good. I don’t give a (expletive).

“You didn’t give me enough money but I come from a place with no money and you give me too much money. I don’t give a (expletive) about making more. I am doing better than I was ever supposed to do.”

Nate Diaz applies a choke hold to win by submission against Conor McGregor during UFC 196 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

While McGregor was undeniably the beneficiary of the UFC expediting his progress, that should not obscure his incredible accomplishments since joining the promotion in 2013.

That fact that he dethroned Aldo - the only ever featherweight champion to that point - in just 13 seconds, is all the evidence required to validate that assertion.

However, should he lose to Diaz again, the waters become muddied. He could return to featherweight and once again endure punishing weight cuts, or vacate his title and test the waters at lightweight.

Consecutive losses to Diaz would dictate he enter a ferociously competitive division outside the top 10.

Were he to win, his marketability would remain viable, and he’d likely get his shot at Rafael Dos Anjos, the lightweight champion, who faces Eddie Alvarez tonight.

All of a sudden, the SBG man would again be on the cusp of being the first fighter in history to concurrently hold belts in two separate weight classes.

For a fight that has no tangible relevance in any division, the stakes, for the Crumlin native at least, couldn’t be higher.

Diaz, for all his belligerence, is acutely aware of this.

“They (UFC) better hope I don’t win this fight.  Because it’s going to be a lot of trouble for everybody, in terms of the business. This one coming up, they better hope I don’t win this one because the game is going to change.”

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