UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor came up short when he moved up in weight and fought Nate Diaz at 170lb – two weight classes above the 145lb division where he holds the belt – at UFC 196 in March.
Not having to concern himself with the usual sizable weight cut, McGregor was visibly much more relaxed and upbeat during fight week, but now admits that his more casual preparation probably wasn’t the best approach.
“Swinging on gymnastic rings on fight week isn’t the best thing,” McGregor told ESPN. “Usually, I wrap myself in bubble wrap and only do fight-specific things, but just because of that weight – no weight cut – I had put it in my head that, ‘I’m free.’ I had energy to burn. I was doing so much bounce footwork, the balls of my feet were burned to a crisp. Looking back, it was ridiculous. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
McGregor was defeated by Diaz via second-round submission. It was the first loss of the Irishman’s UFC career. Prior to the defeat, he had knocked out long-time featherweight champ Jose Aldo in just 13 seconds at UFC 194 to become only the second 145lb champ in UFC history. But, rather than focus on defending his title, McGregor appears to still be set on testing himself against bigger opponents.
McGregor was scheduled to rematch Diaz at UFC 200 – again at 170lb – but the fight was scrapped after McGregor refused to comply with the UFC’s media schedule. The rematch is now rumored to be taking place at UFC 202 in August.
He explained: “I wanted to have my revenge at 170, and they’re crying and complaining about the 145lb belt, which I just won three months ago. That division was killed, it was dead. Jose went down in 13 seconds. What more can I do? I traveled the world with that man. I finally got him in the Octagon, and he only lasts 13 seconds. I didn’t see a challenge there anymore.”
With McGregor seemingly uninterested in competing at featherweight, at least for the time being, the UFC have arranged an interim title fight between Aldo and top contender Frankie Edgar. And, according to the champ, the presence of another belt will be enough to tempt him back down to 145lb for a title unification bout.
“I want to see them two go at it, with an interim belt on the line. Then I will see people walking around my division with a belt and that will intrigue me. It will make me want that belt again.”