Diaz on UFC into McGregor rematch: “They better hope I don’t win this one because the game is going to change”

By Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief

Nate Diaz blew up the UFC’s plans when he beat Conor McGregor at UFC 196, and he’s ready to blow up their entire structure with a win in the rematch at UFC 202.

In an interview with Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports, the longtime veteran explained his change in mindset after realizing the position he actually held in the organization, and why that’s going to have further effect on the sport’s future when more fighters follow suit.

“They better hope I don’t win this fight,” Diaz said. “Because it’s going to be a lot of trouble for everybody, in terms of the business. This one coming up, they better hope I don’t win this one because the game is going to change. It already has… People will say, ‘I’ll fight anybody, I love to fight.’ You love to fight? [Expletive] that. People say that. And, yeah, I said that. And I woke up. It takes a lot of fighting to wake up. ‘I’ll fight anybody for free? I’ll fight anybody?’ That’s what [the UFC] wants. That’s what pads their bottom line. Then I realized, ‘[Expletive] you [expletive], you’re playing me.’

“…I’d look at my following [on social media] and other peoples’ followings and I’d look at the numbers for the Fox shows they were putting me on and I was like, ‘Damn, a lot of people are tuning into these shows,'” he continued. “I was headlining a lot of them back-to-back. I was like, ‘I am bringing in bigger numbers than anybody and I’m not getting the deals.’

“‘Fox card,’ they always said. ‘Free TV, free TV.’ I was like, ‘No, it’s not free, they have million-dollar deals to put this many shows on Fox and I’m headlining three shows a year? … Then they are trying to shut me down, shut me up, [saying], ‘He doesn’t move the needle.’ They are just trying to put that out in the mainstream because then people start saying that and it’s true. So then I’d tweet some [expletive] out and it would go viral and I was like, ‘[Expletive] that, I’ll do what I want and if they kick me out, I’ll win anyway.'”

For Diaz, it now comes down to doing what’s best for him and only him, and he’s not willing to keep his mouth shut if things aren’t being handled the way he wants.

“You have to say something,” Diaz said. “I’ve already had too many years of not saying [expletive], and then I got people coming in left and right out of other organizations getting paid out. Are you kidding me? There were probably times I could have done that before but I wasn’t up to par on the knowledge.”

Penick’s Analysis: Another Diaz win at UFC 202 puts him in position to make just about any demand he wants when it comes to his next fight. That’s essentially what he already got with UFC 202, and his position only gets stronger with another win. More fighters like Diaz and McGregor have to realize their star power affords them a certain amount of leeway and negotiating power; obviously McGregor found out the hard way that it’s not all-encompassing power, but there’s power there for the stars at the top that most haven’t taken advantage of to date. Diaz figured out that the promoter was never looking out for him, so he’s now finally looking out for himself, and that’s a great example for the rest of the fighters in this sport.

[Photo (c) Mark J. Rebilas via USA Today Sports]

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