Following the news yesterday that Rafael Dos Anjos had withdrawn from his UFC 196 clash with Conor McGregor, the UFC wasted little time in naming Nate Diaz as a surprise replacement.
It was originally thought that the natural replacement for Dos Anjos would be Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone who, last weekend at UFC Fight Night 83, defeated Alex ‘Cowboy’ Olivera via an arm triangle choke in the first round.
The UFC however, went for fan favourite Diaz who has campaigned for a fight with McGregor since early last year.
A fight between the two was first mooted when Diaz was contacted by the UFC last July and asked to fight the Dubliner following Jose Aldo’s withdrawal from UFC 189. That time, however, the Stockton native was overlooked for Chad Mendes.
Diaz then ignited the talk of a showdown with McGregor last December when he went on a verbal tirade at the Irishman after beating Michael Johnson at UFC on Fox 17.
“If people want to see a real fight, they know who to call,” he said. “I’ll train hard and ninja his a** up. Ninja real s***, not no funny fake ‘let’s fight, but let’s be good friends, it’s a sport’ – f*** that, f*** the sport. This is fight s****. This is ninja s****. That’s what people want to see.”
Dos Anjos’s pull-out has presented Diaz with a fantastic opportunity to finally get the fight he has been craving and take on McGregor. The bout will now take place at UFC 196 on March 5th at welterweight (170lbs).
Mind you, Diaz will know that he wasn’t necessarily the UFC’s first choice to replace Dos Anjos. Speaking to Yahoo Sports yesterday, UFC president Dana White confirmed that bothFrankie Edgar and Jose Aldo had been offered the fight but had declined the opportunity – citing injuries and not being ‘in the right shape to fight’ respectively.
Among all the uncertainty and controversy, one thing has always been consistent and that is that McGregor was always showing on March 5th. Such is his confidence in his own ability, McGregor has always maintained the competition are all the same to him.
While the competition may be the same, McGregor will be making an unprecedented jump in weight class from the UFC featherweight division (145lbs) to the UFC welterweight division (170lbs). Time will tell whether this new weight class will suit ‘The Notorious’. Even before the fight with Diaz had been made, it was rumoured that McGregor would go on to challenge Robbie Lawler at UFC 200 for the UFC welterweight belt.
McGregor and Diaz will cross paths today at an open workout session in LA where they will meet members of the press for the first time since the bout’s announcement.