While Fox censored nearly all of Nate Diaz’s post-fight interview following his win over Michael Johnson at UFC on Fox 17 on Saturday night, the Stockton, Calif., native’s profanity-laced message was crystal clear nonetheless.
If Conor McGregor is indeed going to come up to the lightweight division, Diaz wants to be the first man he sees. In Diaz’s mind, he, not reigning 155-pound king Rafael dos Anjos, is the money fight for the Irishman.
“Now this guy Conor McGregor’s coming back, and he’s doing all this big stuff. Everybody’s calling him out left and right; I’m not like these guys begging for no fight, but we’re talking about big fights. He wants a big fight. We can fight, and that’s a big fight,” Diaz said at the post-fight press conference. “That’s the kind of s--t I’m talking about. Real fights, not funny fake fights.
”...They [the UFC] pulled me out of the rankings when I was ranked No. 3. I just fought dos Anjos and ‘Cowboy’ and now I just beat No. 5-ranked [Michael Johnson]. I had reason to take this fight. I think if we’re gonna see a fight that people want to see, it’s gonna be that fight with Conor McGregor. We could do that s--t tonight. Whenever. Next week. That’s my motivation. I plan on doing well when I do fight.”
Diaz did exactly that in his first Octagon appearance in approximately a year. After somewhat of a slow start, he was in vintage form over the bout’s final 10 minutes, taunting Johnson while utilizing his reach to land effective punching combinations in a crowd-pleasing performance.
It was a far cry from his previous effort, when the Cesar Gracie protégé missed weight badly ahead of his matchup with dos Anjos at UFC on Fox 13. It was reflected in his performance, as the Brazilian dominated the contest en route to a unanimous decision triumph.
“It felt good to be back. I had a good training camp for this fight. Last year when I fought I had no real motivation, nothing to fight for,” Diaz said. I’ve been fighting in the UFC since I was 21; I’m 30 now. Nine years in the UFC; I have a lot of fights. I was sick of fighting people just to fight. I want a good fight. I want fights that matter and make sense.
“Because sometimes when you’re just fighting to fight there’s no motivation in that,” he continued. “I want to fight good fights, big fights that count. When I fought dos Anjos it was hard to get up and train for that fight. He’s a really good fighter, but he was not the biggest name at the time. Things didn’t go so well.”
At least for now, it doesn’t appear that Diaz is interested in staying at lightweight for anyone other than McGregor -- or possibly, a rematch with dos Anjos.
“Only time will tell, but I don’t think I’ll be losing weight for any of these guys down here. They’re not too big of names anymore at 155; I’ve fought them all. Definitely big fights are what I’m after,” he said. “And yeah, I’ll fight him too, lightweight champion,” Diaz later said, pointing across the dais at dos Anjos. “I forgot I left that out talking about Conor motherf---ing Gregor.”
With just two wins in his last five UFC outings, it might be farfetched for Diaz to get his wish, even if it is the popular choice. Despite winning in impressive fashion and then stealing the spotlight from knockout winners dos Anjos and Alistair Overeem thanks to his post-fight outburst, Diaz still wouldn’t go so far as to say he’s enjoying the ride.
“It’s fighting. That s--t hurts, you know what I’m saying? It’s like, f--k. I enjoy getting the job done how it’s supposed to be done and going home with the victory,” he said. “But I think everybody [up here] would probably agree that f---ing fighting is a motherf----r. It does feel great to win. I’m very happy I could get the job done and look good for my partners and my team.”