No matter what happens at UFC 196's main event, Nate Diaz really can't lose. Sure, Conor McGregor might turn his face into mush and knock him out in seconds, but remember that Diaz was booked for this Saturday’s fight with less than two weeks notice. He has a ready-made excuse if he gets his ass kicked.
If the 30-year-old Californian manages to beat McGregor though, it’ll be an enormous upset that should rocket him into the upper ranks of the UFC. "We're going to take his name," Diaz said earlier this week. And he has a plan to do that.
"The game plan is to go in there, hit him with some good shit, don't get hit and come home with a pocket full of cash," he told a TV station in his hometown of Stockton, California.
Succinct, but it doesn't sound like much of a plan. Turns out, there's more to Diaz's strategy, as his coach recently reveled on the Submission Radio Podcast. Diaz will surprise McGregor with his striking, Richard Perez said. In a battle of punches, Diaz believes he has the advantage.
"McGregor is a good striker. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying he's not, but Nathan's better. I mean, when Nathan's on his game plan he'll make him look silly," Perez said.
If Diaz can move the fight to the ground, Perez says his fighter will be in even better shape given his much more polished jiu-jitsu skills. But the coach acknowledges that Diaz may not be able to get McGregor off his feet. "If McGregor's going to keep moving around and he can't get to him, then he's not going to go the ground, so he's going to have to strike," Perez said.
In the end, Perez sees the fight going the distance, something that McGregor's only done once in 21 career pro fights. And that one decision? McGregor won it unanimously.
Correction: A previous version of this article used a photo of Rafael Do Anjos instead of Nate Diaz. We regret the error.