It doesn’t take much to set Nate Diaz off, so you can imagine how he felt in the days following UFC 196, when he watched high profile fight fans praise the determination of the man he had just beaten, Conor McGregor.
LeBron James said McGregor’s loss “doesn’t make [him] less of a man.” Justin Bieber called McGregor’s decision to move up to Welterweight the mark of “a true champion” – while also dismissing Diaz’s style as “terrible,” which sparked a prompt response from the Stockton Slugger. And though he’s since gone silent on the matter, Drake had thrown his support behind McGregor before UFC 196, too.
Now, Diaz is returning fire on those who dared to doubt him.
“Bieber don’t watch the sport; he don’t know the sport. I’ve seen a couple other people too, Drake, all these other guys that are stating their opinion. How are you going to state your opinion when you don’t know shit? You’re just showing your lack of knowledge on the sport,” he says. “They picked McGregor. The mainstream got him because they know his name more, but if you look at my record and at look at who I am and watch my fights, you know [I was going to win]. Unless you’re caught up in the hype. Those guys all were.
“Everyone’s got their opinions,” he continues, “but I wouldn’t say something about a basketball player or something like that ’cause I don’t know the sport.”
There is one group of athletes who Diaz says he’s particularly displeased with in the wake of UFC 196: Current and former boxers who speak with an all-knowing insight on the sport Diaz has competed in professionally since he was 18. Heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury once said, “MMA is for people who can’t box.” Former world champion Andre Berto predicted McGregor would stop Diaz in the first round.
Diaz heard those comments, too. And he hasn’t forgotten them.
“I see a lot of boxers stating their opinions, which is the most irritating,” he says. “They’re stating their opinion on what’s what. All those boxers who are talking all this shit on me, on my skills in the ring and in the cage, too – I’ll whoop those boxers’ asses at boxing. I’ve sparred in pro boxing gyms. I would have already been a pro boxer if I wasn’t locked in contracts forever. I would have been boxing. I’d fucking do that shit.
“Now I have boxers stating their opinions about how great they would have been. They know all about what we do with our hands?” he continues. “It irritates me when I hear all these guys with their criticism. Especially like Andre Berto. I’m like, ‘You obviously don’t watch the sport or know shit.’ I don’t criticize your boxing skills, so stay out of my own.”
Diaz submitted McGregor with a rear-naked choke in the second round of a “Fight of the Night” contest at UFC 196. He accepted the fight on less than two weeks’ notice after McGregor’s original opponent, Rafael dos Anjos, was forced out of the bout with a broken foot, and despite a lack of preparation, Diaz managed to absorb some of McGregor’s best shots – and fire back to land some of his own. A flurry of those strikes forced McGregor into a takedown and Diaz quickly locked in the submission from there.
The 30-year-old was a heavy betting underdog against the UFC champion. And while it was considered an upset by the odds, Diaz made it made it very clear afterward that he wasn’t surprised by the outcome. Now, he says he’s willing to sign on for a rematch against McGregor to prove that his victory wasn’t a fluke – and to earn the respect he deserves.
“A lot of people are making a lot of excuses for this guy, saying he went up two weight classes and all that. I’m a Lightweight, but I can fight at Welterweight,” he says. “I was supposed to lose that fight as far as everyone was concerned. The UFC, him, everyone. He won Round 1, and it’s like, who cares? He lost the fight. It’s five rounds. He can win four rounds then lose in the fifth. He lost the fight.”