MANILA, Philippines – Many fighters offered themselves as replacement foes for featherweight titleholder Conor McGregor in the main event of UFC 196 after the sudden pullout of lightweight champ Rafael dos Anjos, but it was Nate Diaz who got the nod.
Nate Diaz will take Dos Anjos’ spot in the pay-per-view affair’s headliner against McGregor in a 5-round welterweight bout on March 6 (March 5 in US) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“We figured that this would be the most exciting fight. A lot of people wanted to fight Conor McGregor, but Diaz wanted the fight. We felt this was the fight to make and the fight that fans wanted to see,” UFC president Dana White explained during an appearance on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” on Wednesday, February 24.
White also indicated that there were fighters on both sides of the fence, with some wanting the fight despite being short notice and some turning down the offer.
“We called Jose Aldo. Jose Aldo turned the fight down. We called Frankie Edgar. Frankie Edgar turned the fight down. We called ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, [and he] absolutely accepted the fight and would love to take the fight. BJ Penn said he wanted the fight,” he revealed.
Diaz (18-10) is one of the most outspoken and controversial competitors in the UFC today and had previously called out McGregor for an in-cage encounter.
The 30-year-old native of Stockton, California is coming off a unanimous decision victory over Michael Johnson last December.
Meanwhile, McGregor (19-2) ended the nearly 5-year reign of Jose Aldo as featherweight champion by knocking out his Brazilian rival this past December.
The 27-year-old Irishman finished the job in just 13 seconds, earning the record for fastest championship victory in UFC history by dropping Aldo with a counter left hook before polishing him off with hammerfists on the mat.