Conor McGregor: Let’s see if this guy can fight

AND so, back to the octagon. So rarely has Conor McGregor been out of the spotlight since high summer last year that it’s pertinent to note how briefly he has actually been inside the confines of a closed cage. Thirteen seconds has been his lot. In almost eight months. Thirteen seconds. Three punches. That’s it.
Conor McGregor: Let’s see if this guy can fight

The UFC’s combatant-in-chief could be forgiven then - unlikely as it may be - if he takes things a little slowly to begin with in the small hours of tomorrow morning at the MGM Grand. McGregor and Nate Diaz will go toe-to-toe in the headline bout of UFC 196 just 11 days after the card was turned upside down.

What was meant to be a lightweight title superfight is now a welterweight non-championship bout. No belt on the line, no history either but with McGregor involved, there’s no such thing as a nothing fight.

“This is the number and straps life, take out the straps, it’s still the numbers life. That’s it,” insisted the featherweight champion this week as he pondered his first career outing at welterweight. “I’m here for a fight. Let’s see if this guy can fight. He’s talked a fair bit. Now all of a sudden he’s a scared little brother of some sort. Let’s see what he has to say, I’m here for a fight and a cheque.”

The Dubliner is certain to get the latter. There’s a pretty good chance of him getting the former too. Diaz is just three years older than McGregor but he has travelled many more mixed martial arts roads than his vaunted rival. He has fought three times as many UFC bouts as the 27-year-old so can be considered a veteran. He can also be considered wily.

Diaz’s striking and submission skills are celebrated and if a huge shock is to transpire at the Grand Garden Arena, his ground game would be to the fore. The only two defeats of the Notorious’s career both came by submission.

But on 11 days’ notice and at a weight class that all week looked to be suiting his opponent the better of the two, the chances of the Stockton, California native pulling off the first defeat of McGregor’s career looked to be getting slimmer with each pound the featherweight champion put on. On the biggest pay day of his career, simply making it through the opening round might be considered a moral victory for Diaz.

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