In the lead up to their rematch at UFC 202, Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz had a lot of similar feelings when it came to money, media obligations and drug testing in the sport of mixed martial arts.
It wasn’t until the week of the fight when the rivalry between the two opponents really heated up with a bottle throwing, curse laden near melee at a press conference just three days out from the rematch.
Following a five-round bloody war, McGregor and Diaz even embraced after the fight was over and it was impossible for either one of them to walk away without a certain amount of respect shared for each other.
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According to McGregor’s head coach John Kavanagh, who spoke to FOX Sports in the days leading up the rematch, even he agrees that his fighter and Diaz are more similar than some might realize and if not for the rivalry, they’d probably be good friends.
"I think you might be right," Kavanagh joked when asked the question about the similar way McGregor and Diaz carry themselves. "I think you’ve kind of got athletes and then fighters in this sport. You’ve got that in a lot of sports where some guys enjoy the sporting aspect of whatever endeavor they’re in and then there are fighters.
If we go back a thousand years, they'd be on a battlefield with an axe and a severed head in their hand or something like that — like a scene out of "Braveheart". Where as other people might have been happy tossing a tree trunk or sprinting in the direction fast. They're both bona fide fighters.
— John Kavanagh
Kavanagh says it goes deeper than just the fact that McGregor and Diaz are both tried and true fighters because both have the same attitude and approach when it comes to their style inside the cage as well as the opposition they face.
Diaz has famously said it’s "kill or be killed" whenever he steps into the Octagon, and McGregor has echoed similar sentiments ahead of his bouts and that’s something his coach recognizes in both of them as well.
"You just have to look at their fights. Without being too dramatic, it’s almost life and death to them, the fight aspect of it," Kavanagh said. "As opposed to the rankings and what weight class is this. I’ve never really heard either of them care about those topics.
"It almost reminds me of being in the school ground and there’s the two guys that everybody spoke about who would win if those two guys got into a fight, they’re the two best fighters in the school. These guys are two of the best fighters in the world and they’re getting to settle that on the biggest platform."
Maybe one day McGregor and Diaz will go from enemies to allies after their rivalry is settled, but there’s still some unfinished business that must be handled first.
Diaz submitted McGregor in their first meeting and the Irishman got his revenge at UFC 202 when he won a majority decision in the rematch. UFC president Dana White has stated that a third fight won’t take place right away but it seems at some point in the future, McGregor and Diaz will settle things once and for all with a trilogy.
Maybe after that fight is finished, McGregor and Diaz will lay down their swords and finally put the rivalry behind them.