Following a close majority decision loss to Conor McGregor in August, Nate Diaz revealed that he had faced several injuries during his training camp that may have hindered his performance in the five-round battle at UFC 202.
Never one to make excuses, Diaz played it off as just minor injuries that fighters face in almost every training camp. But now his coach Richard Perez has given details on just how bad things got for him in the weeks leading up to the McGregor rematch.
Perez, who handles Diaz’s boxing ahead of his fights, says that the former "Ultimate Fighter" winner suffered a knee injury during the initial stages of his training camp, and that eventually gave way to a rib injury that virtually kept him out of the gym for several weeks before he re-faced McGregor.
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If not for those injuries, Perez believes Diaz would have finished McGregor early in the fight just like he did the last time when he submitted the Irishman in the second round at UFC 196.
“They were bad," Perez said about Diaz’s injuries when speaking to Submission Radio. "The knee was bad and the ribs were bad because when he hurt his knee, he couldn’t run. So then when it got a little better, he wanted to start sparring. And he’s not in shape because he wasn’t really doing much. You know, you work on a little bit of mitts and you work a little bit of sparring and he got better and better. And then when he got (Alan) Sanchez in there, he went a good four hard rounds and he was doing real good, but he was getting a little tired, and that’s when Sanchez caught him in the rib and that then put him out there for a while."
So he can’t back out of the fight. And so I know that if he wouldn’t have been injured, McGregor would have gotten stopped again and Nathan wouldn’t have got hit as much as he did in that first round this last time.
— Richard Perez
Perez says prior to those injuries, Diaz was excelling during camp while working with several fighters with the same size and range as McGregor to prepare for the rematch.
Unfortunately once the injuries started to mount, Diaz wasn’t able to do as much in the gym — and then it showed in his performance against McGregor at UFC 202.
"He was really sharp. He was sparring with guys McGregor’s size, really good boxers and he was whooping on them," Perez said. "So that’s why I knew it wouldn’t happen that way. But it did, and it came out as the best fight of the night. But he got cut, you know, and if there would have been another 30 seconds, he would have tapped him out, cause McGregor was ready to go anyway.”
According to Perez, Diaz never even contemplated pulling out of the fight despite his injuries because he knew the opportunity to face McGregor a second time may never come back around again.
So Diaz pushed through the pain and still managed to put on a "Fight of the Night" performance that he still believes he won.
And his coach agrees.
"I thought he won [rounds] three, four and five," Perez said about Diaz. "But I went back home and watched it again and I thought he beat him, because you can’t win a round by running. And sure, McGregor threw a lot of kicks in the first round. Second round was pretty close — I gave it to McGregor. But three, four and five? No.”
Perez says as soon as the fight ended he knew the judges were going to favor McGregor because a win for him meant a third fight with Diaz and that’s even more money to be made by the UFC.
He even told Diaz, as the judges were tallying the scores, that there was no way McGregor wasn’t going to win this fight and that they would soon be preparing for a third bout to bring the trilogy to a close.
“I feel that Nathan [won], but I knew they were going to give it to McGregor," Perez said. "I just felt that they were. And I knew that at the end — Nathan asked me and I said, they’re gonna give it to McGregor, because I figured they’d want a third fight. But I felt that McGregor didn’t win that fight. A lot of people know that. But I felt they did give it to him so they could have a third [fight].
"The judges were going for McGregor. I mean, you could tell. It’s obvious. And I figured, OK, they want a third fight. You know, a company just bought it out, they want to make more money. They just bought the UFC. If I bought the UFC, I would try to make it as best as I can to get a third fight, to make more money. That’s a money-maker right there. That’s a big money-maker — more than any other fight that’s happening now. So they would be smart to do a third fight.”
Since the fight ended, UFC president Dana White has stated emphatically that a third bout between McGregor and Diaz isn’t on the books for any time soon, although he didn’t rule out a trilogy down the road.
Neither fighter has been booked for another bout since the rematch ended a few weeks earlier, although McGregor had recently been rumored for a lightweight title shot against Eddie Alvarez. As for Diaz, he seemed more than happy to take a long sabbatical and enjoy the seven-figure payday he received for the rematch with McGregor until the UFC finds him another big-money fight that will entice him back into the Octagon.