The UFC is having a standout year in 2021. With several huge cards already in the books, there are still plenty of exciting nights scheduled before the year is done, most notably on November 6 when welterweight champion Kamaru Usman rematches bitter rival Colby Covington.
Having stopped Covington in their first fight and going on a tear since then, you’d struggle to find an online betting site that doesn’t have Usman as a comfortable favorite to hold onto his belt.
Aside from the blockbuster main event, the card also features a highly anticipated rematch between strawweight champion Rose Namajunas and Zhang Weili, as well as a fascinating lightweight clash which sees former title challengers Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler square off.
Of course, there is one prominent name missing from that all-star card – Conor McGregor, far and away the UFC’s biggest draw. Coming off the back of two consecutive defeats to Dustin Poirier, the most recent a result of a freak injury, McGregor appears to have turned his attention to another of his old rivals, Nate Diaz.
Here We Go Again…
Nate’s older brother, Nick, recently made his comeback to the UFC with a gruelling loss to Robbie Lawler, and Conor saw this as an opportunity to once again throw barbs at the younger Diaz.
“Nate your boxing is p*** compared to Nick’s,” he tweeted.
“We been [sic] fed garbage with your sloppy shots the last few years. Can see the clear difference between the two brothers after last night. Balance, composure. Another level the big bro is on to you. I made you.”
It didn’t take long for Nate to respond, tweeting: “U [sic] can’t fight at all member [sic] your leg?”
McGregor and Diaz are, of course, 1-1 against each other in the octagon, having shared one of the biggest rivalries the UFC has ever seen. It seems as though they’re still not done.
The origins of their disputes can be stemmed back to some jabs traded over social media in 2014 and 2015, before Diaz then explicitly called McGregor out after turning in one of the best performances of his career.
After outpointing Michael Johnson, Diaz was interviewed in the octagon and gave what would become an infamous post-fight interview.
Directing his words at McGregor, he said: “You’re taking everything I work for, motherf*****, and I’ma fight your f******* ass.”
The soundbite would go on to become a cornerstone in the history between McGregor and Diaz and was a huge part of the promotion for their first fight a few months later. However, the initial plan was not to have Conor fight Nate in 2016.
Right Place, Right Time
McGregor was set to fight Rafael Dos Anjos for the lightweight title, having won the featherweight strap from Jose Aldo in his most recent bout, but with 11 days to go Dos Anjos pulled out of the fight due to a foot injury. Enter Nate Diaz.
With no other top lightweight contenders able to step in, the UFC called in fan favorite Diaz, but there was to be yet another twist – the fight would take place at welterweight (170lbs), instead of lightweight (155lbs).
With a natural feud between the two already in place, the press conferences building to the fight have become the stuff of legend. With a crowd of raucous fans in attendance, it didn’t take long for the pair to begin trading verbal blows.
“He makes gun signs with the right hand, and balloon animals with the left hand,” McGregor smirked. Diaz’ response was typically to the point: “F*** you. I don’t give a f***.”
Then came fight week and the traditional final press conference in front of an even larger crowd. McGregor attempted his usual mind games and antics, but this time Diaz wasn’t biting as much and gave it as good as he got it.
Anticipation was at a fever pitch by the time the two squared off at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. McGregor got off to a fast start, slicing Diaz’ face with rangy blows, before dramatically running out of steam in the second round.
They sprawled onto the mat and Diaz wrapped McGregor into a rear naked choke, forcing him to tap out and handing him his first loss in the UFC. It was a monumental upset for everyone except Diaz, who said “I’m not surprised, motherf*****.”
Conor was humble in defeat, but it wasn’t long before the two fighters were at each other’s throats again, and a rematch was signed. This time, things were more personal and the various press conferences and interviews were filled with a lot more venom.
At one such event, McGregor and Diaz’ team began throwing cans and bottles at each other, resulting in fines for both. The result of the first fight coupled with the ongoing bitterness between the two meant this rematch was drastically bigger than the first fight.
In fact, by the time it came around, Diaz-McGregor 2 was the most bought UFC pay-per-view event of all time with roughly 1.65 million purchases in the US.
The bout didn’t disappoint. Again, McGregor had the brighter start, dropping Diaz several times and looking sharp. Despite his attempts to pace himself, he still found himself slowing down and Diaz came on strong, drawing Conor into an unforgettable five-round war.
It was to be revenge for McGregor, who was awarded a majority decision on the judges’ cards.
With their rivalry all-square, many expected a trilogy fight at some point, but it still hasn’t emerged. In the years since 2016, they’ve continued to poke at each other online and in interviews and it remains one of, if not the most intriguing fight for both men at this stage of their careers.