Nate Diaz has been fighting professionally for nearly 12 years, but he’s never been more famous than he is right now, following his win over Conor McGregor at UFC 196 – in a fight he wasn’t even supposed to get.
The irony of his current situation is not lost on him, either. Especially since most are clamoring for a rematch.
“I lost plenty of decisions and I’ve never got a rematch to this day,” Diaz says. “So that’s crazy. Conor got worked over and now they’re saying rematch, which makes sense, I understand that. I just think it’s funny because it’s like, Jose Aldo didn’t get a rematch.”
Don’t get him wrong, Diaz isn’t opposed to facing McGregor once again (“Whatever the people are demanding is what I want,” he says), but he’s more interested in a different rematch – against Lightweight Champion Rafael dos Anjos, the man he replaced at UFC 196. The Brazilian battered Diaz in a lopsided 2014 fight, but the Stockton Slugger argues he came into the bout overweight and injured. Now, he wants another shot at the Lightweight belt, and he wants to do it at his regular fighting weight of 155 pounds.
But there are other potential opponents, including current Welterweight king Robbie Lawler and former longtime champ Georges St-Pierre. However, Diaz says neither fight is a priority – because he’d prefer to see his brother, Nick Diaz, take on either man once his marijuana-related suspension concludes in August. Hey, if he’s got some clout, he’s going to use it.
“Those are both great fights, big fights, but those are both my brother’s fights. I’m not going to step on his shoes,” he says. “I’m not going to into his weight because everybody wants to see Nick vs. GSP or Nick vs. Lawler. I would like to fight for the Lightweight title. But if I did the [fighting at] 170 thing I would like them to work out the deal with Nick and I’ll take the leftovers.”
Regardless, Diaz says he’ll be ready to roll – and unlike his fight against McGregor, he’ll actually have ample time to prepare. UFC President Dana White repeatedly claimed Diaz had been training for a triathlon before subbing for dos Anjos at UFC 196, but Nate says that wasn’t the case: He was partying in Cabo San Lucas days before he got the call to face McGregor.
“I wasn’t training for the triathlon,” he says. “I was talking to Dana White after the last fight and I was telling him, ‘Triathlon season is coming.’ I was talking about a fight in the summer and I was saying I’m probably going to try to go up to 170 [pounds]. I was saying summer was coming, race season is coming and that’s when I’m going to be in shape. So he used that when this fight was came up.”
Diaz says a lack of preparation wasn’t going to prevent him from besting McGregor when they stepped in the Octagon. He admits to feeling vulnerable prior to the fight, but he let his attitude take over, confident his opportunity to knock out or submit his opponent would eventually present itself over the course of the fight.
“I can always do five, five-minute rounds, any day, even if I was drinking yesterday or doing whatever,” he says. “I’m a seasoned athlete, an endurance athlete and I’m always working out. But I wasn’t on point. I wasn’t ready to fight. If I was going to get punched in my eye, it was going to be in March.”
The fight ended conclusively when Diaz started to find his range and connect with hard shots in the second round. He stumbled McGregor with a clean blow to the chin that forced the Irishman to react and shoot for an ill-advised takedown. Diaz capitalized on the error by outmaneuvering McGregor on the mat and locking in a fight-ending rear-naked choke.
Diaz’s win over McGregor set a new modern-era UFC record for most submission victories, with nine. He says that’s a nice bit of history, but he would’ve preferred to put McGregor away by knockout. And that’ll be his strategy for his next fight, too.
“These guys shoot on me after they start getting hit, they start shooting on me and getting tapped out,” Diaz says. “It’s a way out because they don’t want to get hit anymore. Conor, that was on the way to being a knockout. He was getting handed some solid shit. He got on me for the takedown because he was done.”