The UFC has made it official: Conor McGregor versus Nate Diaz will be the main event of UFC 196.
The announcement came less than 24 hours after UFC Lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos pulled out of his scheduled title bout with MacGregor on March 5 following a foot injury which he suffered while training last Friday:
— Rafael dos Anjos (@RdosAnjosMMA) February 24, 2016
With time running out, the UFC Had to scramble and find a replacement opponent for its King with barely two weeks to go before fight night. Early reports had Diaz and Donald Cerrone, who fought just last Sunday, as the front runners to get the call. Frankie Edgar and Jose Aldo already begged off from the bout because the former is injured and the latter is out of shape. Former 155 champion Anthony Pettis also threw his hat in the race but eventually, it was Diaz’s phone which rang.
Diaz called out McGregor after beating Michael Johnson in December 2015. McGregor returned the favor by trashing Diaz during his taped acceptance speech at the recent MMA awards. But because McGregor was slated to face Dos Anjos, that beef was put on the sidelines. With Dos Anjos injured, the fan favourite from Stockton was the logical choice. And after some glitch in the negotiations, the fight was finally booked:
— #UFC201 (@ufc) February 24, 2016
Cerrone was obviously disappointed:
— Cowboy Cerrone (@Cowboycerrone) February 24, 2016
But the rest of the world could hardly care.
Fans have been craving for the next super fight for a long time now. We thought we’d be getting it from Conor and RDA. But even without a world title on the line, is one’s much bigger. For one, Nated Diaz taking a huge fight like this on 11 days notice is incredible. But Conor McGregor agreeing to fight at 170 without a belt on he line is simply unbelievable. Say what you want about the brash Irishman but taking the Diaz fight took more than just big balls. The UFC? Sure it needed to save the event but it took a big risk booking this one. And the big winner here isn’t the UFC but it’s the fans.
The McGregor-Diaz superfight should be one for the ages. It’s the kind of fight that makes this sport so great. No, not the novelty fights like Kimbo-Dada and Shamrock-Gracie, sorry. Conor McGregor versus Nate Diaz proves that there are still true fighters in MMA who just love to put on a show in front of the fans regardless of anything else. After all, wasn’t the sport of MMA born this way?