Conor McGregor will remain the headliner at UFC 196, albeit against a much different opponent than he was expecting.
UFC President Dana White on Tuesday announced that McGregor will square off against Nate Diaz in the main event of the March 5 card. The announcement comes less than 24 hours after news emerged that McGregor’s original opponent, lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos, pulled out of their title fight due to a broken foot.
Due to the short-notice nature of the bout, McGregor and Diaz will compete at 170 pounds. White explained during an appearance on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” that the UFC believes this was the fight fans wanted.
“We figured that this would be the most exciting fight,” said White. “A lot of people wanted to fight Conor McGregor, but Diaz wanted the fight... We felt this was the fight to make and the fight that fans wanted to see.”
Diaz earlier today alluded to the possibility of a bout with McGregor on social media, writing that an unspecified “he” would “have to get on his knees and beg.” The Californian had previously called out McGregor for a fight and stated in December that the fight would most likely materialize.
McGregor, the UFC’s reigning featherweight champ, will fight at 170 pounds for the first time in his Octagon career; he previously held Cage Warriors 155-pound title. “The Notorious” enters the contest on a 15-fight unbeaten streak, including a stunning 13-second knockout of longtime featherweight ace Jose Aldo in December.
Diaz has seen limited action in recent years, fighting only three times in the past two years. He returned from a year-long hiatus in December to earn a unanimous decision over Michael Johnson in a Fox-televised bout.
The main card of UFC 196 airs live on pay-per-view from MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Slotted in the co-main event spot is a UFC women’s bantamweight title fight pitting new champion Holly Holm against challenger Miesha Tate.