Featherweight champion Conor McGregor was trying to become the first person in UFC history to hold two different title belts at the same time, but when lightweight champion Rafael do Anjos pulled out of UFC 196 with a broken foot, McGregor’s goal was put on hold. However, now that Nate Diaz has stepped up to fight McGregor on short notice, UFC President Dana White told The Jim Rome Show that McGregor still has a chance to make history Saturday night.
“Everybody thinks this is a walk-over fight, and it’s not. Conor is fighting at 170 pounds for the first time ever,” White said of the 145-pound champion McGregor. “Nate Diaz is very long, rangy. He’s unbelievable, got unbelievable jiu-jitsu, and obviously his standup, he looked phenomenal in his last fight. If Conor McGregor comes out and destroys Nate Diaz, not one person anywhere should go, ‘Oh, this is a walk-over.’ This isn’t a walk-over fight at all. This is a fight that never happens, things like this never happen. Guys don’t step up on 10 days’ notice and take on a guy two weight classes up, and a guy like Nate Diaz, this never happens. This is what makes this fight so fun.”
McGregor is coming off a 13-second knockout win over former featherweight champion Jose Aldo at UFC 194, a fight White is still in awe of.
“Blown away. I’m still blown away,” White said of McGregor’s quick finish of the Brazilian. “First of all, when it comes to the mental warfare game, I don’t think anybody has ever been better than Conor McGregor. I think he’s the best ever in the history of combat sports, number one. Number two, to get into somebody’s head is one thing and you can throw them off in a fight, but to knock out a guy like Jose Aldo in 13 seconds, that’s more than being in their head.”
In Saturday’s co-main headline fight, Holly Holm steps back into the octagon for the first time since knocking out Ronda Rousey last November to win the women’s bantamweight championship. Instead of waiting for a rematch with Rousey, Holm has decided to stay active and defend her championship belt against Meisha Tate. White was asked about Holm’s decision to fight now and whether or not he liked it, because with this fight, Holm is jeopardizing a lucrative rematch with Rousey.
“I’ll tell you this, to be brutally honest with you, as a fan, I love her attitude and I love that. As the business side, I absolutely hate it,” White said. “Holly vs. Ronda is the biggest fight in UFC history, without a doubt. I think this thing does close to two million buys, and she’s going in Saturday night against Miesha Tate, who A., is hungry and wants that belt so bad, and B., stylistically matches up very well to give her a tough night, so it’s going to be interesting.”
Having a close personal relationship with Rousey, White also talked about the comments the former champion made about how her loss to Holm made her suicidal.
“That women is so competitive, and truly believed that she would never lose, and that’s what we all loved about Ronda Rousey. That’s what got everybody so into women’s MMA and behind her, and then, when she lost, I mean, she went into a depression like I’ve never seen before,” White said. “This is a person that I’m very close to and know very well, and yeah, it was tough to see her go through that, but she’s 100 percent bounced back, recovered and is getting ready to come back in either October or November.”
White now expects Rousey to return as a smarter and more tactical fighter.
“I think we’re going to see a more calculated Ronda. Ronda got to the point where she would fight anybody at their own style,” White said. “You don’t want to run into somebody else’s attributes. You want to shake things up for them and make them come into your wheelhouse, where you’re the best, and Ronda just went out there that night with the wrong plan. And then even when stuff started to go bad, she didn’t change things up, and she didn’t mix it up. You won’t see that again, I guarantee you. She’s going to be much smarter in her next fight and how many fights she fights after that.”
This post brought to you by Jim Rome.