Unfortunately for the UFC and its fans, UFC 196 looked as though it would take a huge hit following the withdrawal of Lightweight Champion Rafael dos Anjos due to injury.
The highly anticipated champion vs champion contest was set to rival McGregor’s previous contest with Jose Aldo in terms of pay-per-view buys.
A broken foot suffered by Dos Anjos put paid to those plans, and lead to a scramble by UFC officials to find an opponent to fight the incredibly dangerous McGregor on two weeks’ notice.
Any fears that UFC 196 would become a hit or miss show were put firmly away when Dana White announced that Nate Diaz would step in to face McGregor at welterweight.
Although McGregor’s featherweight title will not be on the line, the world’s premier mixed martial arts company has put together a fight that may not just live up to the original Main Event in terms of interest, but may surpass it.
For the record I don’t see anything other than an early win to the extremely popular McGregor, but this may be the most fun pre-match entertainment in the company’s history.
Nate Diaz, ranked fifth in his division, will have a natural size advantage, with McGregor set to move up two weight classes to take the fight.
However having lost three of his last fight fights, including a decision loss to champion Dos Anjos, it is Diaz’s ability to sell the fight with his mouth that has fans rubbing their hands together in anticipation.
McGregor, the undisputed king of trash talk, may have finally met somewhere near his match in his brash 30 year-old Stockton native opponent Diaz.
Diaz threw plenty of verbal barbs toward the UFC’s biggest star at the press conference and seemed to get under his opponents skin, especially when insinuating McGregor was on steroid.
McGregor was quick to fire back, referring to Nate as “Nick’s little brother” and jokingly poking fun of the amount of money on offer whenever McGregor’s name is involved.
Some of the other insults traded cannot be repeated, but it’s safe to say that both have done an amazing job of adding fuel to an already roaring fire.
Diaz, a $4.10 outsider, will look to emulate the success of Chael Sonnen, who in first fight with then pound for pound king Anderson Silva, talked such a big game that 600,000 people paid to watch the fight despite him being a huge outsider.
Most importantly of all, he seemed to convince himself, and beat the middleweight champion from pillar to post for four and a half rounds.
Unfortunately for Sonnen, Silva managed to dig deep and steal victory via a late triangle choke submission, but he had the almost 13,000 people in attendance believing the impossible was about to happen.
Diaz is going to talk a lot of fans into buying this fight. Whether or not he can back up his verbal jabs with real ones is yet to be seen, but one thing is for sure, I will be tuning in to see if he can shock the world.
Earlier in the year I listed a potential McGregor/Diaz fight as the fight I most wanted to see going forward. Not for a minute did I believe we would see it in 2016, but I believe I’m in the majority when I say, I’m glad IT’S ON!!!