If you closed your eyes, you'd have sworn it was a boxing show.
Upon arriving 30 minutes late to a scheduled news conference alongside imminent UFC 202 opponent Nate Diaz, fiery Irishman Conor McGregor went all-in on controversy -- playing a mouthy role in a juvenile fracas that degenerated into tossed expletives and beverages.
His tardy entrance prompted a hastened, retaliatory exit from Diaz, who gave McGregor and his entourage a middle-finger salute before flinging a water bottle.
McGregor responded with his own obscenities before flinging bottles and cans in Diaz's direction and prompting an abrupt white flag from UFC czar Dana White.
"That's a wrap," White said, "get him out of here."
The headline-grabbing silliness ended the pre-fight media event before the scripted face-off between the foes, who had a memorable first octagonal meeting at UFC 196 in March.
Diaz was a shocking submission winner thanks to a second-round rear naked choke in that one, after taking the fight on 11 days' notice when welterweight Rafael dos Anjos withdrew with a broken foot.
McGregor, the featherweight champion, had been scheduled to challenge for a second title belt.
Instead, he's spent the subsequent five months trying to rebuild a tattered aura.
"Fans can look forward to a ferocious fight," he said. "I'm going in there with ruthless intention. They can look forward to an improved athlete, a focused athlete. It's going to be one hell of a fight.
"(Diaz has) gotten even bigger than the last fight so I'm facing an even bigger man. But you know what, I'm excited about that and I've put in the correct preparation for that. I've sparred middleweights, fresh middleweights. The first fight was at 170 and my heart wouldn't let me have it any other way."
He claimed Wednesday that a win in Saturday's rematch at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas -- to be contested at 170 pounds -- would ultimately yield a third fight.
"I have to get a lot of business to handle after this fight," McGregor said. "But make no mistakes, it will be a trilogy fight down the line. It won't be straight away but we will do it down the line."
The first fight was contested at 170, and many suggested afterward that it was a size difference - Diaz is three inches taller, has a two-inch edge in reach and has spent a career fighting bigger men - that was McGregor's undoing.
Not surprisingly, he disagreed.
"I don't feel the size was the reason," he said. "I can't say move down a weight, I'll get you there. What kind of fighter is that? What kind of man would I be if I was to say that?"
Diaz, meanwhile, believes chatter about size differential detracts from his win.
"He's fought 145 pounds and 155 pounds in his career and I've fought 155 pounds in my career, and I had a couple fights at 170. I don't know how I suddenly became this monstrous heavyweight against Conor McGregor just because I won the fight," Diaz said.
"I'm a mixed martial artist. You kick, you grapple, you everything. It's a mixed martial arts fight. I always train hard to be in the best shape I can, in or out of season. We're going to have to get in there and see what happens in the fight. That's what I'm here for, that's what we're all here for."
The Diaz-McGregor main event will top a five-bout pay-per-view card that will go live at 10 p.m. ET.
Preceding them on the broadcast is a light heavyweight bout between top contenders Anthony Johnson and Glover Teixeira, and a trio of welterweight scraps matching Rick Story and Donald Cerrone, Hyun Gyu Lim against Mike Perry and Tim Means versus Sabah Homasi. Here's the full main card with updated fight odds from UFC.com.
|UFC 202 main card|
|Conor McGregor, -129||Nate Diaz, +109||Welterweight|
|Anthony Johnson, -200||Glover Teixeira, +170||Light heavyweight|
|Donald Cerrone, -15||Rick Story, +135||Welterweight|
|Hyun Gyu Lim, -265||Mike Perry, +225||Welterweight|
|Tim Means, -400||Sabah Homasi, +330||Welterweight|
Fox Sports 1 will show a trio of bouts on a preliminary broadcast beginning at 8 p.m. ET, while UFC Fight Pass will have three more bouts on an even earlier preliminary show starting at 6:30 p.m. ET.
McGregor is a favorite, albeit a slight one, in the marquee fight. It'll take a $128 wager to return $100 on him, while a $100 outlay on Diaz would return $108 for a repeat of their first encounter.
|Tale of the Tape|
|Conor McGregor||Nate Diaz|
|Record||19-3, 17 KO/Sub||20-10, 17 KO/Sub|
|Weight||170 pounds||170 pounds|
|Hometown||Dublin, Ireland||Stockton, California|
How does Diaz win?
He's the taller man and he's got longer arms, and he's got more experience with fighting guys his own size, so if he's able to take the initiative and throw McGregor off his game because of those dimensions again, his confidence will swell again. If Diaz is still landing shots -- both verbally and with his fists -- at the end of five minutes, an upset might very well follow.
How does McGregor win?
Five months ago and at the apex of his ascension, it was difficult to come up with a way McGregor might lose to a hastily-called substitute. His stand-up game was solid. His precision and timing had proven superior to power and speed. And lest we forget, he looked good early against Diaz before getting sloppy. If he wins this time, it'll be for the same reasons. He's simply a better all-around athlete.
Prediction: McGregor by TKO
Those who bought in to McGregor after his demolition of Jose Aldo at UFC 194 were understandably shocked by his failure with Diaz the first time around. But the reasons for backing him haven't changed. He's still the faster man. He's still a superior athlete. And he's still going to be able to play offense for a significant amount of time on Saturday night. The guess for the second go-round is that his shots will do enough damage to sap Diaz's strength, and he'll avoid disaster while finishing things his own way.