Nate Diaz believes the UFC wants to find a way to restore Conor McGregor to his star status following his defeat of the Irishman at UFC 196.
Diaz expressed his displeasure at the way he's been treated after upsetting the sport's hottest property, in quotes relayed by Brett Okamoto of ESPN.com:
I feel like, honest, I feel like the UFC wants to weed me the f--k out of this position. I don't know if I'm supposed to say that. Sorry. I feel like a lot of people are coming at me now. I see them making a lot of excuses for him, and I think it's kind of ridiculous.
I don't think it's just the UFC. It's everybody. People are saying, 'Oh, [McGregor] is great, he's accepted the loss so well.' If I would have lost, people would be saying, 'piece of s--t shouldn't have accepted the fight.' I don't mean to be bitter, but there are a lot of excuses being made for this guy. He's talking about winning the first round. There are five rounds in a fight. Who gives a s--t if you won a round? You lost.
Diaz's victory undoubtedly put a spanner in the works of arguably the UFC's No. 1 money-spinning commodity. McGregor was taking the world by storm inside and outside the Octagon, but defeat put a halt to rumours of potential mega-money encounters with Robbie Lawler and Georges St-Pierre.
McGregor made the step up from featherweight having earned the 145-pound belt in his 13-second knockout of Jose Aldo, but Diaz stunned the world with his second-round rear-naked choke, per BT Sport UFC:
BT Sport UFC @btsportufc
Morning fight fans, relive the moment @NateDiaz209 stopped @TheNotoriousMMA at #UFC196. https://t.co/hUXlvQZwFH2016-3-7 07:30:04
McGregor maintains he was winning the fight prior to the submission and has confirmed he's open to a rematch between the two, per TMZ:
The 27-year-old has received support from a number of celebrities and fellow athletes in the wake of his defeat, with pop star Justin Bieber offering his support on Instagram:
So too did NBA legend LeBron James, according to ESPN's Dave McMenamin:
Dave McMenamin @mcten
LeBron on C. McGregor: "Champions take lumps all the time. It doesn’t make you no less of a man. It doesn’t make you no less of a champion"2016-3-7 16:23:11
Diaz, though, appears to be moving on from the McGregor circus, hinting he could be set to return to lightweight to compete for the belt in his next fight, per Okamoto:
I'm thinking probably the lightweight title fight, whatever is biggest. The biggest thing with Lawler and St-Pierre, I would have been all about those fights and I am, but at the same time, my brother [Nick] is coming back and those are his fights. Those are Nick Diaz fights. I'm not trying to step on his shoes. We'll see how things play out. As far as rematches go, I lost close decisions and never got a rematch.
A lightweight title fight would prompt a rematch with Rafael Dos Anjos—the fighter McGregor was supposed to face in the Octagon until a late injury ruled out the Brazilian.
However, 30-year-old Diaz also said his priority is the fight that would attract the biggest hype—and by extension the biggest monetary reward: "I'm not asking for anything. I'm demanding more than everybody. I want more than everybody, straight up. Money talks. I want the biggest fight. Whoever I've got to fight—the biggest show, biggest payday—that's what I want."
Taking Diaz at his word, the biggest show arguably remains McGregor, as he is surely the opponent who would generate the spectacle and earnings he's after if a rematch came to fruition.
Should the pair face each other once more, Notorious will likely approach the bout somewhat more cautiously, having exhausted his energy in the first fight as he went head-hunting.
McGregor landed several powerful strikes on Diaz prior to the fight-ending submission and had his opponent bleeding heavily by the end, so there's still plenty of merit to the idea he can cut it at a higher weight class with more time.
However, he has a belt to defend at featherweight, and that is more than likely the task he will next be handed by the UFC matchmakers.