Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz lock horns again this weekend with the Irishman determined to avenge his March defeat—and the animosity has been rising.
The pair’s status and mutual dislike means the bout has attracted interest like few others.
Ahead of the encounter, Sport360 looks at five of the biggest rivalries in UFC history.
Three times their rematch has been scrapped and it’s only worked to stoke the hatred between these two warring light-heavyweights. Jones questioned the two-time Olympian’s wrestling credentials and it escalated to an out of cage brawl and various verbal battles.
One of the best rivalries in UFC history is also one of its most one-sided. Both played their roles to perfection with Ortiz as the villain and Liddell as the fan’s favourite. Despite ‘The Iceman’ claiming two onesided knockout wins, everyone wanted the trilogy but sadly it never came to fruition.
For women’s MMA, they are both pioneers. Both had big egos and the skills to match. Their rivalry started with Strikeforce and carried through to the UFC but it was during the ‘Ultimate Fighter’ they clashed and Tate was the first woman to go beyond a round with Rousey in their title meeting.
Few can forget Sonnen’s brilliant call out of Silva. Although he was dominant, Sonnen was submitted by triangle choke in their first meeting. But the loquacious American earned a second shot at the middleweight belt when he said: “Anderson Silva, you absolutely suck,” after beating Brian Stann.
The WWE superstar arrived to much fanfare in the UFC but was handed the unenviable task of taking on submission specialist Mir in his promotional debut. After 90 seconds, Mir wrapped up a knee bar and a rivalry ensued, famously coming to an end at UFC 100.
Las Vegas is a city notorious for its endless entertainment options, hosting the biggest stars and some of the most ostentatious shows. Few, though, are comparable to the theatre of a Conor McGregor spectacle.
The Irishman rolls into Sin City tomorrow for UFC 202, hunting redemption for a personal nadir with the same ferociousness as the tiger adorning his stomach.
Nate Diaz is the man on the menu, the first fighter to inflict defeat on McGregor’s transcendent UFC record after he sunk in a second-round rear-naked choke on just 10 days notice in March.
‘The McGregor Show’ has taken on numerous forms, from record-breaking championship knockouts to blood and guts glory. But this one has a different complexion.
His now famed crisp and cold trash-talking has thawed the mental fortitude of previous adversaries. Jose Aldo crumbled in 13 seconds to see his featherweight crown and 10-year unbeaten record snatched away while Chad Mendes was peppered with verbal jabs before the inevitable knockout blow landed.
Even the imperturbable Rafael dos Anjos – the former lightweight champ, who McGregor was initially slated to fight on March’s UFC 196 card – showed little imperviousness when faced with the Irishman’s psychological warfare.
McGregor on presser incident: "I thought it was a case of dehydration so I was simply launching up some hydration."https://t.co/bcc06qVAMc— FOX Sports: UFC (@UFCONFOX) August 18, 2016
Not Diaz, though. In fact, the American has stolen the show so far with Thursday’s pre-fight press conference justification of that.
In the past, McGregor’s most dangerous weapon has been his mouth. But Diaz artfully pulled his opponent’s trusted tool – the mic – away from his lips and in the same breath amplified a rivalry which had quietened significantly in recent weeks.
‘The Notorious’ is, well, notorious for arriving to press conferences fashionably late. He storms in to vociferous acclaim from his devoted Irish supporters and fires rapid verbal combinations to leave his rivals dazed. This time, his tardiness worked against him as after just five minutes of oration, Diaz walked out, igniting a melee by throwing a water bottle at a crucially irritated McGregor.
He pleaded to go back on stage shouting “let me talk, just let me talk,” with desperation displacing the usual lexical command.
In a key pre-fight conflict, McGregor lost. The calm and calculated McGregor, has instead cut an edgy figure in ensuing interviews and the question is, will it affect his gameplan?
In March, he pursued Diaz with ruthless intent, head hunting and searching for the knockout blow. When he failed, there was no ‘Plan B’ and little energy to even execute one, eventually leading to his downfall. This time around, McGregor must show a degree of patience, utilise his kicks to the body and legs and try to outclass an opponent with excellent boxing fundamentals and who has been stopped just once in his UFC career.
With the vexation he’s displayed in the aftermath of the press conference, there’s a concern his composure may have been eroded. If that’s the case, defeat is on the horizon against the longer framed Diaz in what is the biggest fight of his career.
Make no mistake, this clash is indeed McGregor’s most pivotal and defeat would be catastrophic for his star billing. Yes, a title is not on the line but for a fighter who operates in the realms of the money fights, his ability to attract the dollars will be severely impacted.
The ramifications run deep for the promotion, too. MMA is celebrated for its unpredictability, yet, the UFC has fallen victim to that same principle in 2016.
An unprecedented seven championship belts have changed hands in the last seven months with upset victories aplenty. Another one tomorrow could force a rewrite of ‘The McGregor Show’.
Catch the highlights from the UFC 202 open workouts featuring Conor McGrgeor, Nate Diaz, Anthony Johnson, Glover Teixeira, and more.
UFC 202 takes place this Saturday, August 20 in what promises to be a huge night for the company.
Who do you see emerging victorious from the main event as McGregor looks to avenge his defeat to Diaz?