It’s official. Regardless of how senseless it seems, or the fact that next to nobody in Conor McGregor’s camp wanted him to face Nate Diaz for a second time following last month’s loss—especially not in an immediate rematch, the UFC has announced that the reigning featherweight king will meet Diaz in the main event of July’s UFC 200.
For featherweight fanatics, Thursday’s inevitable announcement wasn’t all bad as the UFC also announced an interim title fight set for UFC 200 between top 145-pound contenders Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar, with the winner earning a guaranteed crack at the division’s actual crown.
However, if you, like countless others, were hoping that the UFC’s announcement regarding the McGregor-Diaz rematch was the promotion’s idea of an early April Fool’s Day prank, you might want to check out Dana White’s appearance on Thursday’s edition of SportsCenter.
”After the [Diaz] fight, Lorenzo [Fertitta] and I went up to Conor’s house that he’s renting here in Las Vegas, and started talking about what are you thinking? What’s next?,” said White. ”And he was obsessed—obsessed with fighting Nate Diaz again.”
”Obviously, Lorenzo and I tried to argue with him and say, ‘Let’s go back down to ’45 and defend your title. Or, if you really want the Diaz fight that bad, do it at ’55,”’ said White. ”But he wants to fight at 170. Even his coach, [John] Kavanagh, tried to get him to get off this rematch and off the 170-pound fight. But it’s what he wanted, and he’s going to get it.”
If you’re familiar with the relationship that the Irishman appears to have with White, Fertitta, and the rest of the UFC brass, you can probably imagine how that conversation went. But during Thursday’s appearance on SportsCenter, White also made a very good point.
”Conor McGregor is a guy who has had fights fall out seven days before he’s supposed to defend his title, and he steps up and takes on all comers. The guy fights anybody, anywhere, anytime,” said White. ”He’s stepped up on late notice and done these things. He wants this Nate Diaz fight, we’ll give it to him.”
Of course, White and Fertitta are rewarding McGregor for making the UFC a nauseating amount of money during the last few years. And although you’d think that he’d use this power to ask for something a little more significant than a rematch with a barely-relevant contender from another division, the Irishman appears to be fixated on revenge.
But despite the boatload of cash that the UFC made on the first meeting between McGregor and Diaz, the promotion is mistaken if it thinks that the success of UFC 196 had anything to do with the Irishman specifically fighting the lightweight veteran.
The first McGregor-Diaz fight was so successful because McGregor’s knockout-win over Aldo last December left fight fans dying to see what the featherweight king would do next at a time when his popularity was already through the roof. To some extent, it didn’t even matter who he was fighting.
Of all the things that separate McGregor from the majority of mixed martial artists, the fact that he’s still seen as an elite UFC champion and a once in a lifetime talent after losing to someone of Diaz’ current caliber may be the most impressive. For any other seemingly-elite champion or top-tier contender, that loss would’ve equaled temporary career suicide.
But while we may be disappointed in news of McGregor’s next match-up, we’ll still watch every single UFC 200-related episode of ”Embedded”, and we’re still going to consume every second of the verbal theatrics leading up to a bout that most of us wouldn’t miss for the world.