Nate Diaz took aim at the featherweight champion trading barb for barb with McGregor in a wild, hastily arranged press conference for the rejigged main event of UFC 196, twice accusing the Dubliner of taking performance-enhancing drugs.
“Everybody is on steroids, the whole UFC, everybody,” said the 30-year-old Diaz last night in Los Angeles. “You’re on steroids.”
That elicited a fierce response from McGregor who insisted he has railed against steroids during his meteoric rise through the ranks of the mixed martial arts world. The Notorious one instead pointed the finger at two of Diaz’s former teammates who, he suggested, tested positive for PEDs.
Diaz, who has continually attracted controversy in his UFC career alongside older brother Nick, agreed to step into the breach on Tuesday night when McGregor’s hopes of becoming the first fighter ever to simultaneously hold UFC titles at different weight classes was dashed as lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos was forced out of their superfight with a broken foot.
The surprise element in the hastily rescheduled main event was that McGregor and Diaz will meet at welterweight, McGregor bypassing an entire weight division in the space of three months. “In reality many people pretended they wanted the fight,” said McGregor. “I just thought, it’s another day [when Dos Anjos pulled out]. They always run. I was expecting it.
“I looked at the picture [of Dos Anjos’ foot] and it was a bruise. I heard ice works wonders. I’m prepared, I’m fit, I’m in shape. The loss of the belt stung for a little bit. But really it doesn’t matter because I should create my own belt, it doesn’t matter, it’s the McGregor belt, I’m fighting for the McGregor belt.”
Things were heated early and often in yesterday’s first get-together, McGregor goading the younger Diaz. “I like Nick’s little brother. How can you not like him? He’s like a little wannabe gangster from the hood. He makes gun signs with the left hand and animal balloons with the right. He’s a credit to the community. Nick is so proud of you,” said McGregor, who afterwards was rushing across LA for an appearance on the Conan O’Brien show.
Fresh from gracing the cover offor the first time this week, his popularity on the late night TV circuit is just another reminder of the Dubliner’s soaring stature Stateside.