The twists and turns of the fight game never cease to amaze. Six months ago, the notion of a Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor rivalry was a pipe dream, a bit of fantasy matchmaking that sounded fun but never made much tangible sense. But now? At this rate, the blood feud between the 209 and fighting pride of Ireland has a chance to go down as one of the most unforgettable rivalries over the past decade.
Consider everything we have seen since that first February press conference in that makeshift UFC Gym. The fist punch, the money channel. The upset, the false retirement. The empty chair that signaled the end of the road, then the bottle brawl that picked up business right where it left off. But still, a rivalry is only a true rivalry when victory has been tasted by both sides, and it will be up to McGregor to prove at UFC 202 that what he shares with Diaz is exactly that, rather than simply one fighter who has another’s number.
And curiously enough, when we turned to McGregor’s UFC 202 peers for their thoughts on having a front row seat to the spectacle, opinion was split about the theatrics that have overtaken fight week. But when that same opinion was asked of McGregor’s chances at revenge against Diaz… well, those peers weren’t so generous.
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Tim Means: You know McGregor tries to play the mind warfare, but you can’t do that with the Diaz guys. They actually feed off that and their energy gets better. I think throwing the bottles and all of that, the people who didn’t want to buy the pay-per-view, they’re going to buy it now. Two guys who dislike each other, it’s good animosity. But I think McGregor loses again by submission in the second round.
I think he’s going to come out and land his shots, and he hits hard or whatever at 145, but you have more durable guys at 170. He mentally messed himself up. He was able to hit Nate Diaz with his best shots and he couldn’t get him out of the fight, and it broke him.
Donald Cerrone: They’re trying to get in each other’s heads and it’s working. I just don’t know if Conor is going to get in Nate’s head. Nate, he’s pretty solid, man.
I got Diaz. Diaz has 10 years of jiu-jitsu. You can’t just hire somebody and two months later be a black belt. I mean, stand-up, the guy Conor’s hands are nice. I’m not taking anything away from him. But as far as his wrestling and his jiu-jitsu, that’s an area that he lacks and unfortunately you can’t just learn that overnight. So Diaz has been in the game a long time, and unless he gets knocked out, I see this fight going a lot like it did the first time.
Colby Covington: I really just think these guys need to conduct themselves a lot better than that. We’re professionals, right? You’re getting paid a lot of money, so you should conduct yourself in a better manner than that. But that’s them. That’s not me. But I definitely had heard feedback from my friends and they think that it looks a little childish and classless. It makes the sport look kind of bad. It makes the sport look, just, trashy. So I would hope they conduct themselves better.
Cody Garbrandt: I think it’s always been a part of the fight game. I know it’s a sport and it’s portrayed as a sport, but we’re in there trying to knock each other out and hurt each other, so if you have hostility before and you’re doing the media, you’re around your opponent all of the time, 24/7 leading up to the fight, and you almost build that hatred for him because you want to go in there and fight, especially with all of the banter back and forth between Diaz and McGregor, that stuff is going to happen — two people who are like that, two superstars fighting each other.
So I don’t think it’s bad for the sport. A lot of people might see it as unprofessional, but that’s what’s great about this sport. We’re all unique and we’re all different, and there’s a lot of individuality here in this sport, guys who are self-made. Conor with his suits and all of this, and Diaz with his Stockton slaps and being from Stockton. So I love it. I’ve loved it, it’s been awesome to watch and it was funny. You got to see some cool videos to keep you entertained during fight week.
Lorenz Larkin: It sells the fight, and it’s cool for them if that’s what they do. It’s not something that I would do, but I’m not going to say it’s unprofessional or things like that, because it’s a part of the fight game. But as far as me, I wouldn’t do it. It’s kind of corny to me, because I’m pretty sure Nate is going to show up Saturday and he’s not going to be intimated by a bottle getting thrown, and I’m pretty sure Conor is not going to be intimidated by a bottle getting thrown. I guess these are just things that got everybody talking about it, and now it’s just more hyped. Now I’m pretty sure, man, this whole event is going to be bigger than UFC 200.
But as for the fight, I’m probably going to pick Diaz. You can’t really learn that much jiu-jitsu in five months, six months. So I’ll take Diaz.
Neil Magny: I’m absolutely picking Diaz. I just don’t see this fight playing out any differently than it did than it did in the first fight. Nate Diaz is just way too big for Conor McGregor. He’s too durable. His jiu-jitsu is way better. His striking has a lot better, in my opinion. So I just don’t see the fight going any different than the first one did.
Takeya Mizugaki: I have mixed feelings about everything. For fans, it’s exciting to see something like that. It does promote the fights, but that behavior did lose a little bit of class, and in the beginning I actually thought it was staged. But when I saw how Dana looked really pissed off, I realized it’s not staged.
But in the end, I think the weight difference is going to be the factor, and I think that Diaz has an advantage because of that. I think he finishes McGregor again.
Garbrandt: I don’t think it’s going to be much different of a fight. I think that the surprise factor for McGregor isn’t going to be there, because he was surprised that Diaz was taking the shots that he was knocking out featherweight guys with. Diaz is a durable, tough, son-of-a-gun, and I think that surprised him. He gassed and he really lost his composure in there after he couldn’t take him out in the first and Diaz was still there, getting bloody, ‘what’s up,’ slapping him in his face.
So that surprise factor is gone now. He’s got to work on the cardio, but then again Diaz has a full training camp. He doesn’t have 10 days. So I don’t think it’s going to be much different. I think that Diaz will get the win, it’s just a matter of submission or TKO. I think in the third or fourth round Diaz will get him.
Randa Markos: I don’t think it’s bad for the sport honestly, because it’s a press conference, yes, but the press conference, all of this media stuff, it’s all leading up to something — and that’s a fight. These two guys have to fight each other. That’s just their personalities, and maybe they need to build themselves up to hate their opponent to get in there to be more aggressive. It’s all about what kind of a fighter you are, and for them to be throwing bottles at each other and be so angry with each other, it really shows what kind of people they are and how they feel about each other. And that’s what you’re going to see in the cage. You’re going to see them pissed off at each other and try to kill each other, right? So I think it’s just, that’s who they are. This is the sport.
Nate is more prepared for this fight. He won that last fight with short notice, and Conor was preparing for it the whole time. I think Nate, he’s just too strong and he’s too good on the ground. Now obviously Conor has been working on jiu-jitsu and everything like that, and all parts of his game, but Nate can take a punch. Conor has good hands and everything, he’s knocked these guys out, but Nate can take a punch. So all he has to do is take that punch, then take him to the ground. I think Nate is definitely going to win this fight.
Hyun Gyu Lim: I think it’s going to be similar to the first fight. I think Nate’s going to finish him on the ground.
Covington: I think so. I think Diaz is more prepared now. He had a full training camp. He’s a great fighter and he knows what it takes to win. His style just matches up well with McGregor because he’s so long, he has such a good reach advantage, he’s just a bigger guy. So he can take those shots that the 145-pounders can’t take, so I feel like it’s going to play out the same way. But McGregor has surprised us all before, so you never know.
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