After purging UFC’s featherweight decision with six knockouts in his first seven fights and becoming the toast of the mixed martial arts world, Conor McGregor (19-2, 17 KOs) makes two jumps to welterweight when he faces Nate Diaz (18-10, 4 KOs) in UFC 196 Saturday night at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas.
McGregor was originally supposed to move up one class, from 145 to 155, to face Rafael dos Anjos, but late last month the Brazilian suffered a broken foot and had to pull out.
Diaz, brother of former champion Nick, stepped up to fight McGregor on only two weeks notice and without a full training camp. However, it’s McGregor who must meet the 30-year-old's weight requirements. It stands as a significant test even though no title is on the line in the scheduled five-round bout.
"You know, for me [the octagon] is where I'm almost the least nervous," McGregor told Colin Cowherd Tuesday. "There are other things that might make me nervous. Things like doing the 'Conan' (O'Brien show). I might get a little more nervous for these unusual things than I would walking out to the octagon. Walking out to octagon and stepping into a cage is something I literally do every single day of my life. I step foot inside an octagon and train and compete.
"It's just another day for me. I'm unshackling chains off me when I make that walk. It's freedom for me in there. I get to go in. I have nobody telling me what I can do or how I can do it. I'm free to paint the picture how I want. That's it. I enter, I come out the gate fast and I spin and I set the tone for the unorthodox and then set my opponent up for a KO blow and then I execute it. It's simply another day for me."
Claiming 15 straight bouts and rising MMA’s ranks over the last five years, odds makers almost emphatically believe McGregor won’t have a problem moving up to meet Diaz. According to Bovada.lv, McGregor’s a -380 favorite compared to +290 underdog Diaz.
Still, Diaz is a much heavier opponent than McGregor’s become accustomed, and the California native also has a two-inch reach advantage to keep McGregor’s powerful and quick strikes somewhat at bay.
And, like McGregor, Diaz is evidently taking a relaxed approach to the bout. He went so far as to suggest the result isn’t such a big deal to him.
"It would have been nice to get a camp. It's all good, whatever. I've went to camps, trained hard and fought like [expletive],” Diaz told TMZ. “Three weeks later, after eating as much as I want, hanging out, not doing nothing, came in and whooped everybody's ass in the gym anyway. So we'll see what happens. I think you should beat everybody on your worst day, but you can never be ready enough for a fight anyway. Might get murked. Don't care, though. It's all good. Or he might."
Prediction: McGregor. The weight jump is a concern, but a minor one for the Dublin native. McGregor's too relentless and ferocious, and though he might hold back slightly to feel out Diaz in the first round, he'll come out blazing by the second round for a KO.