If Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz are to have a rubber match, the “Notorious” one would like to dictate the terms of that bout.
McGregor avenged a March defeat to Diaz in the UFC 202 headliner on Saturday night, taking a hard-fought majority decision over his rival in a “Fight of the Year” candidate. While a trilogy seems almost inevitable, McGregor doesn’t plan on facing Diaz at 170 pounds again.
“I want to go back down. I’m the 145-pound champion. The 155-pound [title] is there. When I fight Nate again it will be 155 pounds,” McGregor told media after the fight. “It will be on my terms this time. I came up and I didn’t make any excuses or any stipulations to try and get this win back. I had it exactly the way it was previously.
“He got even bigger from the first fight. He was way bigger than the last time. Over that five months since the last fight [at UFC 196] he grew,” McGregor continued. “I knew what I was up against, and I was thinking in my head maybe this could be a mistake…I believe if we do it again it will be 155. Maybe for the belt. Who knows what’s next?”
While making the media rounds prior to Saturday’s event, UFC President Dana White was adamant that McGregor would defend his featherweight belt next. White reiterated that plan in a post-fight interview on Fox Sports 1 but acknowledged that a third McGregor-Diaz bout could eventually take place.
“We’re definitely not doing this a third time right now,” White said. “I don’t think there’s anybody who doesn’t want to see this fight again. Conor’s either gonna go defend his title or give his title up and then we’ll figure out where to go from there.”
Regardless of what might be next, McGregor seemed to learn from the mistakes he made at UFC 196. In the first bout against Diaz, the SBG Ireland product gassed himself out looking for the quick knockout and was submitted in the second frame. McGregor again started quickly this time, but his overall approach was much more measured than it was in March.
“I dropped him three times. I could’ve went in there and pressed but I was patient,” he said. “I learned that lesson. He does this thing where he uses his range where he pulls. Then as the fight progresses he steps in. So when I anticipate he’s gonna be far, he steps in close. That was one thing that flustered me in the first contest. Because I was anticipating him to be far and then he was here. I anticipated that a bit better, I was lighter with my shots and I was slapping him a bit. I just had to be patient, not fall into my shots, not rush. I anticipated him to be there for the full five rounds and he was. The game plan worked.”
That plan included feeding his longer foe a steady diet of leg kicks. All told, McGregor outlanded Diaz by a 40-to-9 count in that area. McGregor admitted that it was uncharted territory for him, but it was necessary against a bigger man.
“I don’t really throw leg kicks. In my whole career I’ve thrown about three,” he said. “Usually inside. People in the featherweight division are 5-8, 5-7 even. Unorthodox it’s a little bit more risky. This time you have to hit the legs on them. We practiced leg kicks. He’s able to handle the leg kicks now. He’s a lot more seasoned. But I just kept kicking. I’m sure it set up some of the shots I landed. I didn’t just head hunt; I hit the leg, I hit the body. I didn’t overload on my shots. When he stepped in a few times I threw some elbows as well.”
When all was said and done, McGregor couldn’t help but admire the tenacity of the man who he engaged in a projectile battle with just a few days prior at a pre-fight press conference.
“His face was all bloodied up and he’s still just coming,” McGregor said. “You’ve got to respect Nate and the style of fighting that he brings. How can you not?”