When you talk to an MMA casual, you can normally bet your mortgage that they’ll know who Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz are.
The two are forever intertwined for their famous rivalry during McGregor’s run to becoming the biggest superstar the sport has ever seen, with their welterweight feud providing two classic moments in the fight world.
Their first clash came on just 11 days notice, when McGregor’s bid to go for champ-champ status was postponed as Rafael Dos Anjos picked up a foot injury. A war of words between Diaz and Conor had already been sparked, with the Stockton native’s infamous post-fight octagon interview call out.
Diaz stepped in, McGregor accepted without hesitation and a welterweight bout was made at the drop of a hat. The press conference that followed saw verbals exchanged in a small gym at short notice before they stepped in for the highly anticipated clash. Diaz of course got the famous win via rear-naked choke in the second round, catapulting him to main stream stardom.
The rematch was made immediately afterwards, at welterweight again, as McGregor was adamant he wanted to avenge his loss at the same weight class. There was more aggro at the press conferences for this one and more animosity between the two, with things thrown at the press conference and McGregor even taking a swing at Diaz’s hands during the face-off at the weigh ins.
McGregor did ultimately get his win back though, with a unanimous decision win in a fight that has gone down as an all-time classic. Following that fight, McGregor immediately stated he was open to the trilogy bout in the future but it was now going to be on his terms and he wanted it at 155lbs.
There has been verbal clashes between the two since that day in 2016 but the fight has never happened. It’s never quite aligned in the stars. McGregor of course went on to beat Eddie Alvarez for the 155lbs title to become the first ever champ-champ, before taking a mind boggling boxing fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Nate Diaz took three whole years off before he entered the octagon again, smashing through Anthony Pettis before losing to Jorge Masvidal for the BMF title in 2019.
Diaz is intent on only taking money fights at this point, insisting his brand and name deserve it. McGregor had previously been keen for title fights or fights with contenders. But his defeat to Dustin Poirier may need to alter that thought process in the immediate future.
There’s a mini tournament happening right now for the UFC lightweight title, with Dana White admitting that Khabib Nurmagomedov is unlikely to reconsider his decision to retire following UFC 254 in October 2020.
Poirier’s stunning knockout win over McGregor has earned him a title shot in his next fight and Michael Chandler’s vicious knockout win over Dan Hooker likely puts him in that conversation along with Charles Oliveira.
Justin Gaethje lost to Khabib in his last outing, while Tony Ferguson got brushed aside by Oliveira and Gaethje in each of his last two outings. The division is stacked and McGregor has said he wants to get back in there as soon as possible.
But he’ll want a more favourable match up to ensure he gets back on the winning trail. Gaethje is a man who loves to kick the legs and has incredible knockout power plus a granite chin, much like what caused him problems against Poirier. Ferguson has an incredible chin but is also a demon when it comes to grappling, something that has never been McGregor’s strongest suit.
Diaz is a black belt in jiu-jitsu, but he’s also a handy boxer. He doesn’t really have knockout power but he does have submissions. What’s more though, is Conor has actually been more active and beaten him more recently.
He knows how to get it done against Diaz and if there’s anything the UFC need is for Conor to get back into the win column to ensure his star stays high.
His best chance of a win in the current climate against the current batch of potential opponents comes against Diaz. A win gets him back in the conversation for contender bouts, while the top of the division sorts itself out with the title picture becoming clearer.
Diaz gets the big pay cheque he’s so desperate for, knowing that a win gets him in contender contention too which also equals more money. For the UFC, it means that they have another big money Conor McGregor fight and rivalry to milk.
People will tune in to watch yet another McGregor comeback fight, this time knowing that it’s against a man that has beaten him before. They know there is respect there but there is also bad blood between the two and people will want to see if McGregor really is washed up.
There has been no better time to make McGregor vs Diaz 3 than right now.