March 5th. 2016 – thus begins one of the most memorable rivalries in the history of mixed-martial-arts. In a welterweight affair, ‘Sin City’ welcomes the brash, outlandish pairing of Conor McGregor, and Nate Diaz.
From the get-go, the animosity between the then featherweight champion and the fan-favourite was on display. Pre-fight antics were aplenty, with McGregor slapping the hand of Diaz in a face-off, the Stockon native accusing the Dublin of taking performance-enhancing drugs, and an almost scuffle at the weigh-ins. As speculated the pre-fight glove touch was abandoned as McGregor and Diaz continued to trade verbal barbs.
McGregor was initially scheduled to meet reigning lightweight champion, Rafael dos Anjos in the event headliner – with a broken metatarsal forcing the Brazilian from the affair. Diaz stepped in on two weeks notice, and as advertised, shocked the world. Taking an absolute battering for the opening five minutes – Diaz was a bloody mess as he made his way back to his corner for advice from coach, Richard Perez.
McGregor had just blasted through featherweight king, José Aldo in a record-setting thirteen seconds – and was bearing down on the two-weight world champion status. “I can go all day, all day I can go” the most famous last words from ‘The Notorious’ one as he prepared for the second round.
McGregor continued his head-hunting assault – but slowed down considerably as the frame progressed. Midway through the exchanges, we witnessed a major shift in the momentum. Diaz rattled McGregor with a one-two, stumbling the Dubliner who proceeded to shake his head in dismissal. Another combination forced a rare double-leg attempt from McGregor, with Diaz sprawling expertly. Performing the SBG patented ‘heartbreaker’ guillotine escape, McGregor wound up on his back with Diaz pouring down ground-and-pound. Forced to roll to his stomach, McGregor gave up his neck with the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Diaz, wrapping up a rear-naked choke.
McGregor covered in Diaz’s claret, lay on his back in the centre of the Octagon – having suffered his premier promotional defeat. Taking to the microphone afterwards with colour commentator, Joe Rogan, the consensus underdog, Diaz remained coy on his victorious performance. “Hey, I’m not surprised motherf**ker“.