Even if victory arrives at UFC 196, Conor McGregor will not be able to achieve his goal of becoming a two-division champion.
At least not yet. However, should the SBG Ireland representative defeat Nate Diaz at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on March 5, it’s far from a done deal that he will seek a lightweight title showdown with Rafael dos Anjos at a later date.
“It’s hard to commit to dos Anjos again,” McGregor said at a pre-fight press conference to promote UFC 196. “The same with Jose [Aldo], he pulled. It took him [Aldo] two goes to build up the courage. Hopefully maybe it will take dos Anjos two goes to build up the courage.
“When you pull out with an injury like that, a bruise on the foot, there’s not much I can do to help you back into the mix. It does change things a little bit, but we just have to see how it all plays out.”
Diaz agreed to replace dos Anjos after the reigning lightweight king withdrew from UFC 196 due to a broken foot, although Diaz-McGregor will be at 170 pounds. Dos Anjos later posted a picture of his injury on Twitter, but that wasn’t enough to convince McGregor of the ailment’s severity.
“Like I said, dos Anjos has a bruise on his foot. If you see it, it’s a bruise,” McGregor said. “Ice, Ibuprofen. If I jumped under an x-ray, the doctor would slap me and say, ‘What are you doing kid? Get out of here. Stop this.’”
McGregor had to wait to face Aldo as well. Their featherweight championship bout was originally booked at UFC 189, but Aldo pulled out after breaking a rib in sparring. McGregor downplayed Aldo’s injury then, too, before defeating Chad Mendes for the interim 145-pound strap. Aldo and McGregor didn’t square off until December, when “The Notorious” ended the champion’s reign in 13 seconds.
Aldo was but one of a few candidates, along with top 145-pound contender Frankie Edgar, that was targeted to replace dos Anjos at UFC 196. However, neither Aldo nor Edgar were able to take the fight on short notice.
“Nate for me was the leading option,” McGregor said. “There were many, many, options. But in reality many people pretended like they wanted the fight until the option actually presented itself. Frankie never shut up and then when he was given a phone call and a date, he hasn’t been seen or heard since. Jose was in camp preparing in case dos Anjos pulled out, but then all of a sudden dos Anjos pulled out with his bruised foot and Jose was not fit.”
Diaz, although McGregor claimed that negotiations briefly stalled when it came to settling on a weight for the bout, proved to be the most willing opponent.
“Everyone wanted it, and then they didn’t want it. At least Nate was engaging in the conversation. Everyone else flat out went running. Instantly, he became the front runner. That’s it. If you’re willing and you’re able and you want to step up and fight, I’ve got respect for that.
“If you show up, you fight, you’re in. Congratulations, you did it,” McGregor continued. “Most people when they get that red panty night they ring home to their wife, ‘Baby we did it.’ Nate rings [brother Nick Diaz], ‘Baby, we did it.’ He has been around a long time. He has stepped up and fought. He does deserve that check ....Nate, congratulations, you’re rich now.”