The epic rivalry between UFC stars Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor has given us some legendary moments but it all started with one man and a microphone.
By December 2014, ‘Notorious’ was quickly becoming the biggest name in MMA and had just picked up the most impressive win of his career against Dustin Poirier.
Diaz, frustrated by the attention McGregor was getting, used his moment on the mic after beating Michael Johnson in December 2015 to send a message to the Irishman.
“Conor McGregor, you’re taking everything I worked for, motherf*****. I’m gonna fight your f****** ass,” Diaz shouted.
“You know what’s the real fight, what’s the real money fight, me, not these clowns that you already punked at the press conference. Ain’t nobody wants to see that. You know you can beat them already. It’s an easy fight. You want the real s**, [I’m] right here.”
At the time, Diaz’s call-out fell on deaf ears as McGregor was dead set on becoming the featherweight champion, which he did by beating Chad Mendes and Jose Aldo to end 2015 with the gold.
Intent on replicating his Cage Warriors success, ‘Mystic Mac’ stepped up to lightweight in a bid to become the first dual-weight UFC champion in history.
Rafael dos Anjos, who held the lightweight title at the time, suffered an injury that ruled him out of UFC 196 and set McGregor scrambling for a new opponent on short notice.
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Who better than the fan favourite who had already cut an epic promo about McGregor?
McGregor and Diaz agreed to a short-notice match-up at in a fight that changed the course of both their careers forever.
The featherweight champion entered the bout a huge favourite and in the first round, it was clear why as he was piecing up his opponent on the feet and seemed to be on his way to another big victory.
Things quickly changed in round two as the UFC legend was unable to get rid of Diaz despite throwing everything at him.
McGregor became tired before being wobbled by a punch and shooting for an ill-advised takedown.
The California native let off some ground strikes and synched up a rear-naked choke submission – he’d won against the odds – before delivering a memorable four-word reaction to the biggest win of his career: ‘I’m not surprised, motherf******.’
An immediate rematch followed, and this time McGregor was much more prepared for the durability of his opponent.
The 33-year-old landed often, dropped Diaz several times and survived some tricky moments to bounce back with a majority decision win.
Six years later, McGregor is the biggest star in MMA history and is reported to be worth in excess of $180 million.
The Dubliner’s newfound wealth is not helping him in the octagon, as he has recorded just one win since 2016 and is on a two-fight losing streak.
Diaz is in a similar predicament. The 37-year-old is a huge star but inactive and on a two-fight losing streak ahead of the final fight on his UFC contract.
The Ultimate Fighter winner is desperate to have his last UFC fight and leave the promotion, in order to explore the lucrative free agency market that could bring him a fight with YouTuber-turned-boxer, Jake Paul.
Earlier this week, Diaz called for his release from the UFC and hinted that a fight against ‘The Problem Child’ is what is next for him after MMA.
UFC president Dana White says Diaz fighting someone like Paul is probably the right move but it seems like the UFC president is intent on holding onto one of his biggest stars so that he can match him up with McGregor for one final time.
As the Irishman edges closer to his comeback date, fighters such as Charles Oliveira, Michael Chandler and Jorge Masvidal are lining up to fight him but the biggest fight possible is the trilogy with Diaz.
The UFC bigwigs know this and have thus far refused to match grant Diaz a release for one final fight.
While this may be frustrating the often-outspoken fighter, it could result in him receiving another huge payday to fight McGregor and settle their rivalry once and for all.
McGregor vs Diaz gates
Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz I, UFC 196: $8,197,628.00
Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz II, UFC 202: $7,700,810.60