UFC 196 could serve as a preview for Conor McGregor’s rumored foray into the welterweight division, but according to Nate Diaz, it didn’t necessarily have to be that way.
McGregor and Diaz will square off at 170 pounds on March 5 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The short-notice matchup came about when Rafael dos Anjos pulled out of a lightweight title defense against “Notorious” earlier this week due to a broken foot.
Diaz has struggled making lightweight limit in the past — most notably missing weight before a 2014 bout against dos Anjos — and McGregor said that the Californian repeatedly asked the UFC to raise the limit for their bout.
“Nate tried to exit the fight...there was many discussions,” McGregor said during a press conference on Wednesday. “The first discussion was a money issue. They resolved the money issue. Then he could only make 160, so we gave him 160. Then he came back, he could only make 165, so then I told him to get comfortable, you can step on the scales at 170. That’s it. I’m looking forward to it. I’m happy to give the fans what they asked for.”
Not so fast, says Diaz, who is coming off an impressive lightweight victory over Michael Johnson at UFC on Fox 17 this past December. Whatever happened in pre-fight negotiations was unknown to him.
“It doesn’t matter. I came to fight. They asked me to fight I said yes, from the beginning. So whatever problems they had, I don’t know, but I came ready to fight,” Diaz said. “Any weight class it doesn’t matter. There was no hesitation on my part. I was ready to rock the whole time. I said it months ago.
“I said 155 from the beginning.”
When Jose Aldo pulled out of his featherweight title defense against McGregor at UFC 189 last July, Chad Mendes took his place and fell to the SBG Ireland representative in an interim championship bout.
Diaz confirmed rumors that he was also in the discussion to take Aldo’s place on that card.
“They’ve been calling me on and off for this guy since they were supposed to fight Aldo the first time,” Diaz said. “They knew they were fighting me this whole camp I’m sure. They put out a video talking s—t on me at the MMA Awards like two weeks ago.”
Regardless of who is telling the truth in the weight-class dispute, McGregor said he is ultimately unconcerned with what the scale reads come fight night.
“I am the rule. I am the only rule in this game. It doesn’t matter weight divisions,” he said. “Nate said he was ready to fight at anytime. He wasn’t ready to fight at 155, he wasn’t ready to fight at 160, 165, so we give him 170.”
Diaz expressed a similar sentiment. If it means a so-called “money” fight, the Cesar Gracie protege will be there.
“I’ll fight at any weight class. I want the bigger fights,” he said.