Following yesterday’s withdrawal by Rafael dos Anjos due to a broken foot it’s been confirmed Conor McGregor will now fight Nate Diaz instead in Las Vegas on March 5th.
Lightweight champ Dos Anjos’ injury sees the Dubliner lose out on a chance to make MMA history by becoming the first two division title holder in the history of the organisation.
It also means that a just few months after claiming the featherweight title against Jose Aldo, McGregor will skip an entire weight division and make his first professional appearance at 170lbs.
Getting to 145lb division has been tough for McGregor but jumping up two divisions, which would mark an almost 20 per cent increase in body weight in such a short space of time, has almost never happened before in the sport.
McGregor v Dos Anjos was on track to be one of UFC’s most anticipated ever main events but fortunately McGregor’s new opponent, the brash and brazen Nate Diaz should make for just as strong of a draw, even with a second belt for the featherweight champ no longer on the line. More importantly, the UFC’s biggest card of the year may have just gotten a boost with a McGregor-dos Anjos rebooking now possible for July.
White announced the McGregor-Diaz 170-pound matchup last night, highlighting that it came together after Jose Aldo (not in shape) and Frankie Edgar (injured) turned down the short-notice offer. The fight will be contested at a heavier class for both McGregor and Diaz so the latter can make weight. The talk already is that the match up is in the running to be the highest selling non title fight ever.
Though Diaz was not White’s first choice to step in at UFC 196, he should be able to draw in as large of an audience as dos Anjos, Aldo or Edgar come March 5.
Though the UFC President has previously questioned Diaz’s status as “a needle mover,” the TUF veteran has been featured in a main or co-main event in five of his last seven bouts, and his last headliner — a 155-pound title fight versus Benson Henderson on Fox — was a ratings success, peaking at 5.7 million viewers.
The only issue surrounding the fight was what weight the non-title bout would be set at. With less than two weeks notice it would have been all but impossible for Diaz to drop down to 155lbs and lightweight.
While a catchweight was initially agreed, according to one report, it was McGregor who finally suggested locking the bout in at welterweight.
“Make it 170. Tell him to get comfortable,” was McGregor’s directive, according to Ariel Helwani of Fox Sports.
Diaz last fought in December, a week after the Notorious one had knocked out Aldo, and recorded an ultra-impressive unanimous victory over Michael Johnson. In the moments after victory, he immediately took aim at McGregor in an expletive-laden post-fight interview.
“Conor McGregor, you’re taking everything I worked for, mother f*cker. I’m gonna fight your f*cking ass,” he screamed into the camera. “You know what’s the real fight, what’s the real money fight – me. Not these clowns that you already punked at the press conference.
“Ain’t nobody wants to see that. You know you can beat them already. It’s an easy fight. You want the real sh*t. Right here.”
For his part McGregor had previously lampooned Diaz’s current UFC contract which reportedly paid him just $20,000 per fight.
All of that is likely just a taste of what’s to come in what is sure to be a hurried, hectic but nonetheless heated build-up to the pair’s meeting next weekend.
Given McGregor’s obsession with pay-per-view numbers and his opponent’s equally quick tongue, the trash talk will very quickly be fast and loose.