Why McGregor rates Diaz higher than Khabib
As Conor McGregor attempts to begin his path back to UFC gold the former dual weight champion has revealed why he respects his old rival Nate Diaz more than his current archenemy, lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Diaz and Nurmagomedov are the only two men to defeat McGregor in the UFC and his rivalries with the American and the Dagestani helped propel the pair to superstardom.
But as McGregor gears up to face Dustin Poirier on Sunday (AEDT) at UFC 257, the Irishman has spoken of his admiration for Diaz and why he saves his special contempt for Nurmagomedov.
"Diaz is a true fighter, he knows what's what and he gave the rematch straight away. He's a real goer," McGregor said.
"Khabib is a scurrier - just like his fighting style, he's trying to hold on. He does not want to give the rematch, Nate gave the rematch straight away so we were straight in and I put the work in.
"But it took some work after that last one (against Nurmagomedov) to get myself correct, there was a lot of self talk, a lot of 'cop on'.
"Thankfully I got myself through. It's like they say, what doesn't breaks you makes you."
Diaz scored an incredible upset over McGregor in March of 2016, coming in as a late replacement on just ten days notice, before McGregor earned a majority decision victory in the rematch later that year.
Nurmagomedov was not so generous after his mauling of McGregor in October of 2018, which he won by submission due to a neck crank after four brutalising rounds that made up McGregor's most comprehensive loss inside the Octagon.
Be it due to delusion, his unshakeable faith in his own abilities or a little bit of both, McGregor sees that loss differently to most and earlier this week he told The Daily Telegraph "I wasn't a martial artist at that time".
"It was still handy enough - he did nothing in the first round, I'll win the first round handy next time," McGregor said.
"The second round he was running around the cage for starters, that shows his thinking there. That would never happen with me switched on.
"Afterwards there were still a few dips for sure, I was in a different space there. I didn't just bounce out of the space I was in after the Khabib fight, it took a lot of work."
Lightweight has long been one of the most competitive and high-quality divisions in the UFC, but McGregor's return to the weight class takes things to an entirely new level.
McGregor's absence means he is yet to face much of the new breed - the bout with Poirier will be just his second at lightweight since winning the title, and just his third overall.
Nurmagomedov has made noises about retirement and while UFC boss Dana White is confident of luring him back there are a host of fascinating matchups for McGregor even if his coveted rematch does not come to pass.
A win over Poirier would put McGregor in the box seat for either another shot at Nurmagomedov or a fight for the vacant title if the Russian opts to retire.
Regardless if his next opponent is the late-blooming Brazilian Charles "Do Bronx" Oliviera, the fearless blunt-force artists Justin Gaethje, his old foe Diaz (who could be lured back to lightweight by the prospect of a trilogy bout with McGregor) or either of the men who form the co-main event on Sunday - former Bellator champ Michael Chandler and New Zealand's Dan Hooker - it promises to be the kind of fighting spectacle McGregor says he once again craves.
"I'm happy for the two lads, they're two good fighters. Chandler is coming up from the lower-league, from the B-league you might say. He's got to prove himself," McGregor said.
"Hooker is a tough New Zealander, they're tough out there and he had a tough fight against Poirier.
"I know they know the magnitude of the position they're in, so that'll only lead to a good contest and good fireworks, they're both eager to make a name for themselves. I'm excited to see how it takes place.
"I'm ready for any of them. That's it. I'm looking for competition, so let's see how it plays out."
Originally published as Why McGregor rates Diaz higher than Khabib