Even though Nate Diaz was partying in Mexico not long before he accepted a short notice fight with Conor McGregor at UFC 196 in March, the Stockton, Calif., native might have been in better shape for that bout than he was for the rematch at UFC 202.
Boxing coach Richard Perez reiterated Diaz’s post-fight claims that he suffered multiple injuries before UFC 202 that hindered his ability to train prior to the Aug. 20 contest. McGregor defeated Diaz via majority decision in the highly anticipated bout.
“They [the injuries] were bad. The knee was bad and the ribs were bad because when he hurt his knee, he couldn't run. So then when it got a little better, he wanted to start sparring. And he's not in shape because he wasn't really doing much,” Perez recently told Submission Radio. “You know, you work on a little bit of mitts and you work a little bit of sparring and he got better and better. And then when he got [sparring partner Alan Sanchez] in there, he went a good four hard rounds and he was doing real good, but he was getting a little tired, and that's when Sanchez caught him in the rib and that then put him out there for a while.”
Despite those setbacks, Diaz never thought about pulling out of the fight, not with a disclosed $2 million payday on the line. And in the bout itself, Diaz acquitted himself quite nicely, as he had McGregor reeling on more than one occasion. According to Perez, Diaz would have finished the fight had he been 100 percent healthy.
"So he can't back out of the fight. And so I know that if he wouldn't have been injured, McGregor would have gotten stopped again and Nathan wouldn't have got hit as much as he did in that first round this last time,” Perez said. “Because he was really sharp. He was sparring with guys McGregor's size, really good boxers and he was whooping on them. So that's why I knew it wouldn't happen that way. But it did, and it came out as the best fight of the night. But he got cut, you know, and if there would have been another 30 seconds, he would have tapped him out, cause McGregor was ready to go anyway.”
In their first meeting, Diaz survived an early McGregor barrage in round one before submitting his fading opponent with a rear-naked choke in the second frame. Even without a full camp, being able to train right up until UFC 196 proved to be beneficial, Perez said. That wasn’t the case at UFC 202.
“The eight or nine days that he really trained he went all out [before UFC 196], because he wasn’t injured,” Perez said. “So it was good, just trying get in shape….He was in good shape the second time but then he got injured with the knee so that set him back….If you think about it, he was probably in better shape then [at UFC 196] because he couldn’t train the last almost three weeks before the fight, so that sets you way back. The other one he was training full all the way to the fight so that makes a difference.”
For now, it appears that a Diaz-McGregor trilogy is on the backburner. UFC President Dana White wants McGregor to either defend his featherweight title or find fights at 155 pounds. Still, Perez believes that Diaz-McGregor 3 — this time at lightweight — is the matchup to make.
"If I was the UFC owner, I would say let's do No. 3 again,” Perez said. “After that, he can go back to 145 if he wants, or 155. That's where they're fighting at, 155 — which is good if they fight at 155, because if Nathan wins he can go for the belt. But that's not what he wants. Just like McGregor, they want the money. They want paydays.”