Even if the UFC 202 fight card is still being fleshed out, none of the other potential and current fights on the card will have the draw of Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor 2. It’s just too big of a fight, highly anticipated ever since McGregor took the first loss at UFC 196 in March. In his mind, Conor is convinced he can win and recover his pride. He was convinced of that even before he decided to jump from featherweight to welterweight. Even in defeat, McGregor is still the UFC’s main draw, and possibly its most flamboyantly defiant fighter.
Nate Diaz was a last minute replacement that proved there is a good reason fights come in weight classes. He absorbed blows from McGregor that would have dropped a dozen featherweights. The win significantly boosted Diaz’s profile, even though he remained nonchalant and easygoing about the whole affair.
UFC 202 is still about three weeks away, and the fight card is very likely to change. Tyron Woodley has said he wants a chance to take on Nate Diaz’s older brother, Nick Diaz, at UFC 202. If he can’t get Nick, he’ll settle for Georges St-Pierre. Nick Diaz has been on suspension for failed drug tests last year. Woodley won the welterweight championship belt by defeating his teammate, Robbie Lawler, in a fight that lasted just two minutes and 12 seconds. Lawler held the title for a year-and-a-half before it all came crashing down, along with Woodley’s fists, on Saturday night.
As MMA Junkie reports, the current fight card doesn’t have too many notable fights besides Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor 2.
Featherweight champ Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz – non-title welterweight bout
Anthony Johnson vs. Glover Teixeira
Donald Cerrone vs. Rick Story
Tim Means vs. Sean Strickland
Cody Garbrandt vs. Takeya Mizugaki
Raquel Pennington vs. Elizabeth Phillips
Sultan Aliev vs. Hyun Gyu Lim
Alberto Uda vs. Marvin Vettori
Lorenz Larkin vs. Neil Magny
Chris Avila vs. Artem Lobov
Ning Guangyou vs. Marlon Vera
Colby Covington vs. Max Griffin
— UFC Fight Pass (@UFCFightPass) July 30, 2016
But as fast as titles change hands in the MMA, any of these fights could give birth to the next real contender and MMA star. UFC management might just grant Woodley his wish and bring him in as a way to flesh out the matches, but it’s really way too soon for Woodley to fight again, even if he thinks those few minutes fighting at UFC 201 didn’t take much out of him.
In any case, people will watch UFC 202 for the main event, as that’s the only big fight on the current fight card. Nate Diaz doesn’t have as much ego or reputation riding behind this as McGregor does. Diaz just wants the big money. Conor is in it for the pride. It’s the way he’s always been.
— #UFC201 (@btsportufc) July 27, 2016
Conor’s coach, John Kavanagh, Ireland’s first Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, told old gym legends about how ego was with McGregor from the beginning, making him hard to coach and hard to train with. More than once, Kavanagh was pushed to his limit dealing with his feisty trainee. News.com.au reported how a particular incident pushed Kavanagh to outrage after Conor McGregor came in and got a little too happy dropping his teammates with body shots, both male and female alike.
“Okay, I thought, I let you [get] away with that once, but you’ve got another thing coming if you think you can come in here and bully people. ‘Right, Conor, I’m next,’ I said. After strapping on a pair of gloves and stepping into the ring, I took Conor down and beat him up until he received the message loud and clear: These people are your teammates, not your opponents.”
Win or lose, McGregor will likely not back down from Nate Diaz, ever. If he loses, he will likely petition for a third chance, and a fourth. But due to Conor’s tremendous will and Diaz’s raw talent, even with all the lesser experienced fighters that will show up on August 20 in Las Vegas, the UFC 202 fight card remains in the hands of giants.
[Photo by John Locher/AP Images]