While the rest of the MMA world either was in shock or reveling in the chaos that transpired in the UFC 196 main event, Nate Diaz wasn’t at all surprised at what went down in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
Well, maybe there was one thing that caught him off guard.
“I knew I was the superior boxer, superior martial artist, superior jiu-jitsu [practitioner]... Like I said from the beginning, I have the best training partners in the world in every aspect,” Diaz said at Saturday’s post-fight press conference. “Nothing surprised me except for that I got hit at all. I think with a full camp, I would have been flawless.”
While he wasn’t perfect, Diaz was more than good enough to bring McGregor’s dreams of challenging for 170-pound gold to a screeching halt. The Stockton, Calif., native absorbed his opponent’s best shots throughout the fight and seized momentum in the second frame when he began to hurt McGregor in their standup exchanges. That led to the Irishman shooting for a takedown out of desperation, and Diaz capitalized by eventually transitioning to the back and earning a tapout 4:12 into round two.
“I’ve been sparring with top-10 boxers forever. I’ve been hit with everything, the hardest stuff by 168-pound fighters. I’ve sparred with heavyweight fighters and I’ve been hit with everything,” Diaz said. “He punches hard. He’s a hard-hitting little guy, but it’s nothing I’ve never felt before. I expected if I get hit by anybody, it’s probably gonna be hard. But if you ain’t taking me out, you’re going to get taken out, straight up.”
The outcome has to be viewed as somewhat disastrous for the promotion, which was rumored to have plans of a McGregor-Robbie Lawler showdown in the works for UFC 200 had McGregor defeated Diaz. UFC President Dana White would not admit as much in the immediate aftermath, however.
“We weren’t planning [UFC] 200 until tonight played out anyway,” White said. “In 16 years in this business, the one thing you don’t ever do is think you know what is going to happen, because you don’t.”
While the pre-fight talk often centered around McGregor’s next move or earnings potential, Diaz believes it’s time for him to receive the appreciation he deserves. Don’t think for a moment he hasn’t noticed the amount of effort the UFC has put into building McGregor into a superstar.
“He had a lot of push. He’s been doing great. He’s got a lot of help behind him. I just wish I had the same push, the same help,” Diaz said. “I’ve been in this a long time.
“I’ve been curious when this is gonna pay off. I think it’s time. Now it’s time.”
According to White, UFC 196 was trending to be the promotion’s biggest event yet. Diaz was more than willing to take some credit for that success.
“My fights are always pulling big numbers. They always stick me on Fox for some reason. They were pushing me on those Fox cards. I was bringing more numbers than anybody but nobody pays attention to that. I got a big following between me and my brother…No one’s ever had a bigger following than me ever. I feel like I brought in a lot. It made the fight more entertaining and a lot more interesting than the dos Anjos fight.”