Nate Diaz gets the call, faces Conor McGregor in new UFC 196 main event
Following an injury to lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos ahead of UFC 196, Nate Diaz has been tapped as the replacement to step in and face Conor McGregor in the new main event on March 5 in Las Vegas.
UFC officials confirmed the new fight on Tuesday.
Dos Anjos was forced out of the fight after suffering a broken foot last week in training, and as soon as news broke that he no longer was competing at UFC 196, a slew of potential opponents began jockeying to land the marquee spot against McGregor.
Ultimately, Diaz ended up as the choice, and now he’ll get the chance to face McGregor at UFC 196 next weekend. The fight will take place at welterweight with Diaz accepting it on short notice and McGregor happily accepting the move to 170 pounds.
The outspoken Stockton, Calif. native just recently defeated Michael Johnson at FOX UFC Fight Night in December, but just before that fight he was calling out McGregor for a potential matchup.
"He talks all that money fight s–t, he knows where it’s at. It’s right here," Diaz said in December. "It’s not these guys fighting in the main event. The main event’s right here. These guys already got punked out at that press conference. He already beat them. That’s a win.
"If he wants to fight a real fight, he knows where’s it at, he knows where the money fight’s at. It’s right here."
McGregor responded in kind after he won a "Fighter of the Year" award earlier this month, taking aim at Diaz and painting him as a minor leaguer in the UFC.
"I heard Nate Diaz couldn’t even afford the flight over to Las Vegas for the ceremony," McGregor said in his acceptance speech.
"Stop holding bitterness deep in your bum soul. Stuck on $20,000 to show and $20,000 to fight. I wipe my ass with that money. I tip your wage, Nate, yeah."
Now the rivals will get to settle their differences inside the Octagon as the new headliner for UFC 196 in Las Vegas, with the women’s bantamweight title fight between Holly Holm and Miesha Tate as the co-main event.
McGregor (19-2) won the featherweight title in December, winning his long-awaited matchup with Jose Aldo in 13 seconds. The Irish pay-per-view star had hoped to hold the 155-pound lightweight belt simultaneously by beating Dos Anjos (24-7).
Diaz and his older brother, Nick, are rivaled only by McGregor himself as mixed martial arts’ most eloquent trash-talkers, and the UFC 196 fighters are already off to an entertaining start.
While fans speculated about McGregor’s new opponent earlier Tuesday, Nate Diaz tweeted: "He’s going to have to get on his knees and beg…"
He's going to have to get on his knees and beg…
— Nathan Diaz (@NateDiaz209) February 23, 2016
Diaz was echoing previously comments from McGregor, who has said he wants his future opponents to line up "on their knees with their hands out. I want them to beg" for the payday that comes with fighting him.
White detailed the promotion’s hustle to fill the matchup with McGregor in an interview on ESPN’s "SportsCenter," saying Aldo and Frankie Edgar turned down the short-notice fight. Edgar is thought to be injured, while the short preparation time wasn’t enough for Aldo.
White said Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone and former champions Anthony Pettis and BJ Penn and other fighters were willing to take the bout, but the UFC chose Diaz.
The 170-pound weight limit against Diaz also sets up McGregor for a dry run at fighting as a welterweight, 25 pounds above the featherweight division. McGregor’s trainer has claimed the fighter has trouble making the 145-pound limit, although McGregor has dismissed the concern.
McGregor has boasted of his intention to win belts in multiple weight classes, and the UFC could be entertaining the possibility of matching McGregor against welterweight champion Robbie Lawler at its landmark UFC 200 show on July 9 in Las Vegas’ new T-Mobile Arena.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.