UFC President Dana White praised Conor McGregor for his willingness to "fight anybody, anywhere, any time" and credited the Irishman with attracting new fans to the sport.
McGregor, 27, will now fight Nate Diaz at UFC 196 on March 5 after his mooted lightweight world title bout with Rafael dos Anjos was cancelled earlier this week when the Brazilian pulled out with a foot injury, per BBC Sport.
It is the fourth time in eight fights that current featherweight champion McGregor has been forced into an opponent change, and White commended his willingness to go ahead despite such late alterations, per LA Today (via Fox Sports' Damon Martin):
A lot of people say I'll fight anybody, anywhere, any time. Not many really do it. A lot of people talk, not a lot of people do. Chuck Liddell and Conor McGregor are two guys. Conor McGregor doesn't care who it is.
You know how many times opponents pull out and most guys wouldn't fight. He doesn't care. He'll fight anybody, anywhere, any time and he absolutely means it. The difference is what I know as opposed to what other people know, I'm the guy who's on the phone making these phone calls when this stuff happens. I'm the one who hears what these guys really think and what they really mean and let me tell you, it's what makes Conor McGregor, Conor McGregor. It's amazing.
The Notorious is unbeaten in his seven UFC bouts so far and was looking to become the first fighter to hold two world titles at the same time after his bout with Dos Anjos.
While that is no longer on the table, a win over Diaz—currently the UFC's fifth-ranked lightweight—would still be an impressive feat, and White believes McGregor's willingness to take on anyone has made him a big attraction, per LA Today (via Martin): "This kid is the reason people become fight fans."
McGregor and America's Diaz, 30, were at each other's throats immediately in a typically entertaining pre-fight press conference on Wednesday, per the UFC (Warning: Clip contains NSFW language):
Oh boy! 😯 #UFC196 https://t.co/eDs4b0zZSn @TheNotoriousMMA @NateDiaz209 throwing verbal jabs. https://t.co/2DmdqC0jcV2/24/2016, 9:48:40 PM
The pair are set to fight at welterweight, which means McGregor will have to make an even bigger step up than initially planned for the Dos Anjos clash.
Though Diaz usually competes at lightweight, the short time-frame means he would not have been able to cut down enough in just two weeks, so the fight has been set at 170 pounds, per Sky Sports James Dielhenn.
That means a 25-pound jump for featherweight McGregor, but his coach, Owen Roddy, believes that is an advantage for the Dubliner, per Dielhenn: "In regards to the new weight, he's got a lot more energy and he's a lot faster. He's also a lot stronger at this weight because he has built himself up. The energy he has at this weight is way better. Usually he's cutting weight for two or three weeks but this time he's not, which is a huge difference."
White said he has no concerns about the weight because McGregor was happy with it, per LA Today (via Martin): "[Conor] wants to fight. This guy wants to fight. He wants to prove himself in different weight classes against the best in the world. When you find a rare guy like this, you roll with it."
McGregor is undeniably box office, as his last fight against Jose Aldo ended in spectacular fashion after just 13 seconds, via BT Sport:
BT Sport @btsport
If you're just waking up, the @UFC has a new Featherweight Champion! Congratulations @TheNotoriousMMA! #UFC194 https://t.co/LZHSuvAHFh12/13/2015, 8:53:59 AM
The Las Vegas clash against Diaz next month will undoubtedly be tougher, but as White noted, McGregor is up for anything and will surely produce another blockbuster performance.