UFC head Dana White acted fast in the aftermath of the foot injury that will keep Rafeal dos Anjos out of the main event fight against Conor McGregor at UFC 196. Stepping in for the UFC lightweight champ? Nate Diaz, who will take on McGregor in a non-title fight on March 5th.
"We figured that this would be the most exciting fight," White said on Sportscenter. “A lot of people wanted to fight Conor McGregor, but… we felt this was the fight to make and the fight that fans wanted to see.”
He’s not wrong. This fight should be thrilling, but the build up might be even better. McGregor now has several months worth of trash talk to fit into 10 days, and Diaz is no slouch when it comes to popping off at the mouth either. After his last fight, a unanimous decision over Michael Johnson in December, Diaz immediately called out McGregor in a profanity-filled tirade.
The Johnson fight was only Diaz’s fourth in a three-year span, raising questions about his fitness for the McGregor fight. Add to that the fact that McGregor has been training for a title bout and Diaz has been, well, who knows what he’s been doing. That's reason enough to think McGregor has the advantage (something Vegas seems to agree with).
But if you’re looking for a silver lining for Diaz, it’s that the bout will be fought at 170 pounds. McGregor's scheduled fight with dos Anjos was a lightweight bout, a move up in weight class for the featherweight champ. This welterweight bout with Diaz represents another step up, meaning McGregor will be fighting a guy 25 pounds heavier than the guys he’s used to fighting. That would be huge challenge for any mortal, but for McGregor? We’ll find out next weekend.