As good as the rivalry has been between UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor and promotional bad boy Nate Diaz, it nearly didn’t happen.
While everyone knows that Diaz filled in on short notice for an injured Rafael dos Anjos to fight McGregor at UFC 196 last year, the Stockton slapper wasn’t the first name UFC reached out to. In fact, the promotion was close to presenting McGregor with an opponent he knew quite well.
According to former UFC bantamweight contender Urijah Faber, he was the first fighter to accept the short-notice main event tilt opposite “Notorious.”
“Actually, a lot of people don’t know that I was offered a fight with Conor McGregor – the same fight that Nate Diaz got,” Faber said yesterday (Fri., Nov. 24, 2017) during a Q&A for UFC Fight Night 122 in Shanghai, China. “And I was going to go up two weight classes and fight him on three weeks’ notice.”
Faber explained that UFC president Dana White was on board with the matchup considering both fighters coached against one another on Season 22 of The Ultimate Fighter. But it takes two parties to agree to a fight, and McGregor had his mind set on Diaz.
“Dana said he was going to give that fight to me, and Conor wanted Nate – and you saw what happened there,” Faber said.
Unfortunately for “California Kid,” Diaz took the fight and the rest is history. Diaz ended up choking out McGregor at UFC 196 before McGregor defeated Diaz via majority decision in a rematch at UFC 202. It’s a fight Faber would have loved to have, especially given the financial opportunities that come along with a fight opposite McGregor.
“That would’ve been a good pay day, and it would’ve been a lot of fun,” Faber said. “I like Conor a lot, but as you know he’s a good fight for anybody these days. It would’ve been nice to have had that fight even though it would’ve been up two weight classes and on short notice. I’m always game for a challenge like that.”
As for the fight itself, Faber believes he could have come up with the proper gameplan to avoid the Irishman’s punching power and drag him to deep waters.
“He’s a lot bigger than I am,” Faber explained. “I probably would’ve been faster and much better on the ground. So it would’ve been about game plan. I would’ve done everything in my power not to catch a clean one to the chin and try to get him to the ground.”
While McGregor vs. Faber is a fight most mixed martial arts (MMA) fans would have loved to see considering their back-and-forth encounters on TUF, McGregor vs. Diaz essentially shaped McGregor’s historic rise to popularity, prosperity, and power.