Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz were surprisingly restrained in their first face-to-face meeting since the night Diaz rocked McGregor’s world with a stunning second-round submission victory at UFC 196 in March.
There was no cussing, no middle finger wagging and no near-brawls, all of which have been routine occurrences in the past when these two fierce competitors confronted one another in the same room.
The rivals met in Las Vegas yesterday at a promotional news conference ahead of their UFC 202 rematch, set for August 20th at T-Mobile Arena in “Sin City.” Things weren’t all that heated this time around, however, because Diaz (19-10 MMA, 12-8 UFC) kept his answers awkwardly short while McGregor (19-3 MMA, 7-1 UFC) was a noticeably toned down version of his typical overly brash self.
Diaz and McGregor were supposed to rematch this weekend at UFC 200. The bout fell apart shortly after being announced, though, because McGregor was unwilling to travel stateside to do his pre-fight media requirements. Ironically, that’s exactly what he ended up doing ahead of UFC 202.
McGregor didn’t seem to care that he wasn’t part of UFC 200, which is being touted as the most significant event in company history. He insists UFC 202 will be the bigger and more successful event. Why? Because despite losing his last fight, “The Notorious” still considers himself the most powerful star in the sport and the world will want to see him get redemption.
“August 20th is my date, UFC 202, the real [UFC] 200,” McGregor said. “I will come in correct, prepared, sharp and I will take this man out. This time I’m preparing for a tall, lengthy, ugly, Mexican southpaw. I’m going to go in and put this man away, and that’s it.”
Although McGregor, the current UFC featherweight champion, talks about being underprepared when he moved up two weight classes to fight at UFC 196, it was actually Diaz who took the bout on just 10 days’ notice when McGregor’s original opponent suffered an injury very near to the fight.
Diaz was asked if he believes a more dominant performance is one the way at UFC 202, considering he’ll have the support of a full training camp. His answer was classically blunt.
“It should be better if I can prepare for a fight,” Diaz said.
The first fight came together at 170 pounds due to the short-notice circumstances. The rematch could have occurred at a lower weight category, but McGregor insisted on duplicating the circumstances of the initial meeting as closely as possible in order to prove his loss as a fluke. He was getting the better of Diaz through the first round when they competed against each other, but then Diaz turned and tied in the second, hurting the Irishman with strikes before forcing him to submit to a choke.
McGregor said he wants to pick up where he left off in the first round and promises to be efficiently prepared to do just that.
“It makes sense for me to have the contest at 170 to right the wrong, to leave no questions,” McGregor said. “This is the one, this is where I put everything to rest. I’m going to do what I always do, I’m going to have him backed up, I’m going to press forward similar to the last fight and I’m going to tee off on him. This time, I’m going to be a lot more prepared for he size and the weight and the distance.”
Diaz was unsurprisingly less elegant in discussing his approach and expectations for next month’s showdown.
“I got my team, it’s a strong team like always,” Diaz said. “I’m going to bring in some sparring too, some other people. … I expect him to be prepared and ready to rock & roll.”
For McGregor, a win at UFC 202 is essential to retaining his credibility as a top star and one of the best fighters on the UFC roster. Suffering a second loss to an opponent that traditionally competes outside of his weight class would be a harsh blow to his image and would also send him back to the featherweight division with back-to-back losses going into his first title defense.
McGregor clearly doesn’t intend on letting any of that happen, though. He has a plan for the future in mind, and that includes not only his UFC 202 fight with Diaz, but also a third fight sometime after that to complete the trilogy and settle the score once and for all.
“I feel we’ll enter into a trilogy,” McGregor said. “I’ll correct that win, I’ll re-claim this, let all those featherweights know that are praying I don’t come back. I really, I swear to god, I don’t even understand how they could say I’m not coming back.
“I’ll beat Nate, get that win back, dominate my division again… So yeah, I do believe this will be a trilogy fight.”