In a move that’s stunned quite a few UFC fans and perhaps torpedoed the previously “stacked” UFC 200 event, MMAJunkie writes that Conor McGregor will not be facing Nate Diaz in the main event. This news comes after McGregor left a cryptic tweet (at least if not taken at face value) declaring his intention of retiring.
The UFC responded hours later with a “breaking news” tweet.
Many fight fans don’t even know what to make of this startling turn of events. Usually, when a McGregor fight gets changed at the last-minute, it’s not because of McGregor himself; often, his opponent suffers an inconvenient injury that forces a substitution. In fact, the Conor vs. Diaz fight happened because McGregor’s original UFC 196 opponent, Rafael dos Anjos, broke his foot.
With less than two weeks to prepare and no camp whatsoever, much of the pre-UFC 196 hype predicted an easy win for Conor. Instead, we witnessed the “Stockton Slap” and an incredibly quick tap by the previously undefeated Mcgregor. Nate Diaz declared he wasn’t “surprised” by the results, and it was clear that he was more than confident about fighting McGregor again.
So what exactly did Dana White have to say about the decision to remove Conor McGregor from the fight card? White told Sports Center,
“We pulled Conor McGregor from UFC 200 and we’re working on other fights right now. Conor did not want to come to Las Vegas and film the commercial and be a part of the marketing. He’s in Iceland training.”
When asked if Conor was serious about retiring, White answered, “Is Conor retiring? Only he can answer that question. I don’t know.”
This debacle didn’t have to happen. Some observers felt it was never a wise move to rush for a rematch, which has become Dana’s Modus operandi as of late. Take the case of the unforgettable knockout defeat of Rhonda Rousey by Holly Holm.
It was Dana White’s plan to stall defense of the UFC women’s bantamweight title until Rousey was mentally up to fighting again. However, Holm refused to atrophy in Ronda’s absence, opting to take on Miesha Tate at the very same event — UFC 196 — that saw McGregor lose to Diaz. Holm lost her belt to Tate, and with it, her status in the UFC. White almost seems to be blatantly punishing Holm for refusing to wait for Ronda.
Tate could suffer a similar fate if she loses, as Dana White has already gone on record as declaring that Ronda Rousey will fight for the UFC women’s bantamweight title in her return to the sport — no matter who happens to be the champion. The refusal to aim for a Holly Holm rematch has been noted.
In the case of Conor McGregor, this knee-jerk rematch never made sense. The goal of the dos Anjos fight was for the ever self-hyping McGregor to become the first man to hold two belts in two different weight classes within the UFC. That goal proved impossible with Rafael’s injury and the subsequent opponent change. Still, it could very well have been a renewed effort once Rafael’s foot fully healed.
McGregor could have just defended the belt he had in the meantime, and the Diaz rematch moved to another card or forgotten altogether. So what exactly went wrong with the McGregor vs. Diaz rematch?
The dominant theory is an unsurprising one; McGregor never wanted a rematch out of a healthy fear of being embarrassed via second Diaz defeat. This move is somewhat understandable, and one reason the rematch at 170 never made any sense. McGregor may train at this weight, but it’s not the one he fights at. That means he’s used to opponents who don’t hit nearly as hard as Diaz.
The surprise at the strength of Nate’s blows was all over Conor’s face. He visibly panicked with the realization that his hits weren’t doing the damage he wanted and the very real possibility that Nate could knock him out. Unfortunately for McGregor, Diaz’s ground game was vastly superior to his own.
For all the intended hype building by White, there didn’t seem to be anything that would suggest a different outcome. Remember, Nate Diaz dominated Conor McGregor on less than two weeks notice and with no training camp. The idea that full preparation would make Diaz more vulnerable is a ridiculous one.
If Conor McGregor genuinely intends to retire, it would certainly leave Dana White in a bind. If McGregor announces he’s not retiring, but his next fight is anyone other than Nate Diaz, the UFC will have quite a bit of egg on its face thanks to this stunt.
Do you think Conor McGregor is purposely dodging a Nate Diaz rematch? Share your thoughts and theories below!
[Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images]