Nate Diaz says Conor McGregor and the UFC were desperate for his business
UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor may be the biggest ticket and pay-per-view seller in the sport of MMA now. He also loves to lord his fame and profitability over his opponents.
He did so once again on Wednesday in Torrance, California, while sitting near his new UFC 196 opponent Nate Diaz. "How does it feel to be a millionaire?" McGregor asked Diaz at the press conference to introduce the fight.
The implication is, as McGregor often said in the past year, his opponent is lucky to be fighting the Irishman, because now he’d be getting the biggest payday of his career. The former lightweight title-challenger Diaz went out of his way to set the record straight, however, and claimed that it was the UFC and McGregor who were eager to do business with him, and not the other way around.
"I didn’t ask. They called repeatedly, for months," Diaz said.
"So, congratulations to you, motherf—–. I’m the show."
Much has been written about the UFC’s search to find McGregor another opponent for the March 5 Las Vegas slot since lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos pulled out this week with a broken foot. Diaz said that he actually was contacted about fighting McGregor as early as last summer.
"They’ve been calling me, on and off, since he was supposed to fight Aldo the first time," Diaz told the assembled crowd of reporters and rowdy fans.
Diaz went further and claimed that the UFC and McGregor likely were in cahoots to pull the old promoter and favored fighter trick of giving one camp a heads up that they’d be fighting someone while the opponent was unaware, until the last minute. "They knew they were fighting me this whole camp, I’m sure," Diaz said of McGregor and his team.
"They put out a video of [McGregor] talking s— on me at the MMA awards like two weeks ago. You guys know something already?"
With that, Diaz raised an eyebrow and looked sideways to his right, at McGregor. McGregor paused, began a response but was then cut off by the Stockton, California fighter.
"But, I don’t give a f—. I train to fight everybody, all the time, anyway," he continued.
Diaz went on to say that he was told that McGregor badly wanted to fight him this past summer after then-featherweight champion Jose Aldo pulled out of his originally-scheduled showdown with McGregor.
"They were like, ‘McGregor only wants to fight you. That’s all he wants, is you,’" Diaz claimed.
McGregor smiled and admitted to badly wanting to get his hands on Diaz. "I do," he allowed.
"I’m looking forward to it, so let’s do it … I felt pity on your broke ass. I wanted to make you rich at UFC 189."
Diaz emphasized that it was he who was making himself wealthy, after nearly 13 years as a pro, multiple big fights and some savvy leveraging of opportunity and demand. "They gave me a f—load of money [to fight McGregor] and you know what I said? I said, ‘I want more of that s—,’" he recounted.
"How about that, motherf—–?"
McGregor repeatedly seemed to be entertained and admiring of Diaz’s moxie throughout the proceedings. After all, he’s never really faced an opponent up to the task of going brash word for word with him, in addition to going blow for blow.
In addition to some kind words about Diaz, however, McGregor was backhanded with compliments and also quite culturally insensitive in calling the Mexican-American Diaz a "cholo gangster." McGregor may or may not have meant to be perjorative along ethnic lines with the statement, but he certainly seemed to want to be condescending to his opponent.
"I like Nick’s little brother. Honestly, I do," he said. "He’s like a little cholo gangster from the hood, but at the same time he coaches kids jiu jitsu on a Sunday morning, and goes on bike rides with the elderly. He makes gun signs with the right hand, and animal balloons with the left hand. You’re a credit to the community."
For his part, Diaz was at ease firing back at McGregor to give him pause and put him on his heels rhetorically. He had good zingers of his own and also managed to be offensive toward minority groups.
Of his smaller opponent, Diaz derided McGregor for being in a lighter weight class and defeating other featherweights instead of the larger men Diaz has competed against for most of his career.
"You beat all midgets," Diaz said. "I fought every f—ing week, forever, motherf—–. I’ve been in the UFC forever, fighting everybody.
"You fight midgets. You knocked out three midgets, and you’re pumped up. I’m a real motherf—ing fighter, fighting grown-ups, all the time."
For all their perhaps unintentional offensiveness, Diaz and McGregor clearly have a great deal of respect for one another. McGregor may feel that he’s the reason Diaz finally is getting paid, but he also acknowledged that the veteran surely deserves it.
"He’s right, he has been around a long time. He has stepped up and fought. He does deserve that check," McGregor said.
"When they came back and said that the negotiations were taking place and stalling, I said, ‘Give him what he wants. Give him what he wants and let’s get him in there.’"
When given the opportunity to speak on McGregor’s way of constantly trash-talking opponents, Diaz said simply, "He’s doing his thing."
McGregor certainly brings the circus with him everywhere he goes. That said, Diaz isn’t short on appeal, and he knows it.
"He’s doing his thing, but I bring the motherf—ing show, too," he reminded. "So, don’t forget about it. It’s the Diaz show also. Don’t forget about that."