CONOR McGregor has won the first battle of UFC 196, prevailing in a fiery, expletive-riddled trash-talk exchange with new opponent Nate Diaz – who threw a wild steroid accusation.
With the UFC having settled on Diaz after Rafael dos Anjos pulled out of a lightweight championship match with a broken foot, McGregor set upon his fresh mark with panache and declared he would win by Round 1 KO – despite taking the fight at welterweight.
“His soft body and his lack of preparation, he will not be able to handle the ferocity. End of the first I feel he will be put away,” McGregor said, at the first press conference and face-off for the March 6 (AEDT) bout in Las Vegas.
“Don’t get me wrong, I do respect Nate. There’s a lot of pussies in this game and he is not one of them.
“There’s a respect there between us but it’s business in there and business is business. He will be KO’d inside the first round.”
Diaz gave the press conference an angry edge at one stage, throwing a steroid accusation at McGregor – then everybody – in the lead-up to a bout where the Irish megastar will compete at 12kg above his usual fight weight.
McGregor: “I don’t care about weight…”
Diaz: “They’re all on steroids.”
McGregor responded angrily: “Steroids, what you talking about steroids? Don’t you put my name with steroids, I’m major against that. Don’t put my name with the name of steroids, Nate. The only weight I give a f*** about are the weight of them cheques and my cheques are always super heavyweight, so I don’t give a s***.”
Diaz later claimed: “Everybody’s on steroids, the whole UFC.”
McGregor fired back: “Not me, I’m not on no steroids, what the f*** you talking about? Your two teammates (Gilbert Melendez and Jake Shields) were on steroids… did you know they were taking that stuff? Did you know they were taking that stuff? Did ya?
“I’m just an animal. I’m just an animal.”
The wild claims of Diaz added spice to the face-off that followed the press conference, where McGregor showed genuine anger and had to be kept from Diaz by two men.
The California gym hosting the press event (on Diaz’s native patch) broke out into chants of “Conor, Conor” during the exchange, leading an irked Diaz to say, “Hey, this is America.”
McGregor delightedly yelled: “I run the west coast, I run the west coast, and the east coast.”
UFC president Dana White took issue with Diaz’s claim, telling TMZ it was false.
“The UFC unquestionably has the best drug testing program in all of sports. All done by the United States Anti-Doping Association,” he said, adding that Diaz’s claims were hypocritical after Shields and Melendez were busted.
A constant theme of the press event was McGregor, UFC’s biggest earner, slapping Diaz over his relatively modest earnings, claiming he was doing odd jobs to make ends meet.
“I like Nick’s little brother, I do, how can you not?” McGregor said.
“He’s like a cholo gangster from the hood but at the same time he teaches kids jiu jitsu on a Sunday morning and goes on bike rides with the elderly. He makes gun signs with his right hand and animal balloons with the left hand. You’re a credit to the community.”
Diaz responded: “F*** you, f*** your belt, I don’t give a f*** what you say motherf***er. F*** your bitch-ass belt too.”
McGregor: “I don’t give a f*** about the belt, I don’t give a f*** about nothing. The only thing I give a f*** about is the cheque, and my cheques are super heavy.
“How’s it feel to be a millionaire now? It’s nice, right? You’re a milly for one night only.”
McGregor later said: “I got world titles and multi-millions of dollars, you got $20,000 to show for your last fight.
“I felt pity on your broke ass, I wanted to make you rich.
“Nate, congratulations: You’re rich now.”
Diaz countered: “Congratulations to you, motherf***er, I’m the show.”
Diaz offered a succinct take on his payday for the fight and how it got made.
“They gave me a f*** load of money and you know what I said? I said I want more of that s***. How about that motherf***er? Pay me. They called me, I didn’t ask,” he said. “I’ll probably buy a whole bunch of nice s***.”
McGregor took a shot at the rivals who didn’t take the fight for UFC 196: dos Anjos, Frankie Edgar and Jose Aldo.
“They all have sore vaginas,” McGregor said.
“Dos Anjos broke his foot and his vagina in the same day, so did Edgar, I couldn’t believe it.
“Aldo – I bounced his head on the canvas like a basketball. You need to take a year, year and a half off.”
McGregor also cast some doubt on whether the RDA fight would ever happen.
“When you pull out like that with a bruise on the foot, there’s not much I can do to help you to bring you back into the mix,” he said.