Legendary WWE commentator Jim Ross has likened Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz, who will face each other at UFC 196 this weekend, to professional wrestling icons Ric Flair and Roddy Piper.
The MMA stars have stoked up plenty of interest for their fight after a crazy press conference last week where both men traded insults. And Ross told MMAJunkie Radio (h/t Brent Brookhouse of MMA Junkie) the abrasive style of both men triggered memories of some of the great names in wrestling history:
Looking at old wrestling terms, they’re like (Ric) Flair and (Roddy) Piper. They’re both great talkers and they know what to say, when to say it and what to say to piss you off.
Diaz has done a good job of ruffling the feathers of every Irish person in the world. And he should, in a sensible way, obviously. That’s what they do.
I would say, in this fight is Diaz the heel or is he the babyface? Or does it matter? Because both guys are going to have their camps and I think there are going to be a lot of people who aren’t necessarily fans of both, but they are going to be interested in the process and it’s going to be a heck of a fight.
Diaz stepped in as a late replacement for Rafael dos Anjos, the lightweight champion, to face McGregor. The bout, initially scheduled to be for the Brazilian’s title, will be held at a welterweight limit; it's the first time the Irishman has ever fought in a division this heavy.
That hasn't negated McGregor’s confidence, though. Here is a look at some of the best moments from their press conference, which contains expletive language:
As is the case in any combat sport, being able to talk well and promote the fight is absolutely vital. In professional wrestling in particular, building hype and tension and getting the crowd involved are essential to creating a spectacle.
Flair and Piper were revered for such skills during their time in the ring. The former has enjoyed a career in the company that spans over 40 years and even to this day turns in entertaining cameo roles as a manager for his daughter, Charlotte, who is the WWE Divas champion.
“I believed Flair was doing everything he said he was,” said WWE star John Cena of Flair's legendary ability on the mic, per the WWE website. “Hip-hop has taken that high roller lifestyle and embraced it. He was doing it before the streets were.”
Piper, who died in 2015, produced some exceptional moments with microphone in hand, especially on his segment known as “Piper’s Pit.” Here's a classic moment when Piper interviewed Jimmy Snuka in 1984:
McGregor and Diaz have their own unique styles, but their trash talk has helped build up substantial fanbases. The Irishman typically seems to ruffle the feathers of his opponents in the lead-up to fights, but Diaz, who usually responds to barbs with a profanity and a shrug of the shoulders, seemed unflappable in the press conference.
Jonathan Snowden of Bleacher Report thinks Diaz is a fighter who captures the imagination of fans with his persona:
Also, whatever you think of them as fighters, if you aren't entertained by Diaz shenanigans you're a hopeless cause https://t.co/1tYLeEUNys— Jonathan Snowden (@JESnowden) February 29, 2016
Who will win at UFC 196?
While the withdrawal of Dos Anjos was initially met with widespread disappointment, Diaz stepping in as replacement has kept fans happy. McGregor would have made history had he beaten the Brazilian by becoming the first competitor to hold two UFC titles from different weight classes at the same time, but this bout with Diaz should be a brawl.
Like Flair and Piper, when McGregor and Diaz talk, it’s tough to tear yourself away. It’s just a shame we couldn’t see the pair go at each other for the full duration of a promotion, although the inevitable fireworks inside the Octagon on Saturday should make up for that.