On December 20, 2015, Nate Diaz made his octagon return for the first time in over a year for a lightweight clash against Michael Johnson. On the back of a loss to Rafael dos Anjos from the previous year, Diaz put on a boxing clinic in his showdown against Michael Johnson.
Diaz went on to outscore Johnson in the three-round fight, and got back into the win column with a dominant performance. However, it wasn't Diaz's return win that once again put the spotlight on him, but rather the call-out after the fight that made headlines.
In an iconic moment in the world of mixed martial arts, Nate Diaz, during his post-fight octagon interview with Joe Rogan, put then-UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor on notice. Accusing the Irishman of "taking everything he had worked for", Diaz delivered one of the greatest post-fight interviews and set up a rivalry of a lifetime against The Notorious One.
How significant was Nate Diaz's call-out of Conor McGregor?
Shortly after his historic 13-second win over Jose Aldo at UFC 194, Conor McGregor set his sights on the UFC lightweight title. Aiming to become a two-division UFC world champion, McGregor was set for a 155-title fight against Rafael dos Anjos. The fight was initially set for UFC 196 and McGregor was hoping to put away his second Brazilian UFC champion in succession. However, an injury forced RDA out of the title fight and the UFC needed a replacement.
Capitalizing on Nate Diaz's callout, the self-proclaimed West Coast Gangster was set for the biggest fight of his career. Stepping in on 11 days' notice, Nate Diaz was ready for arguably one of the biggest showdowns in combat sports history against Conor McGregor.
The legacy of the Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor rivalry
6th March 2016. The location was the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. A card full of superstars featuring Holly Holm, Amanda Nunes, Valentina Shevchenko, and Miesha Tate, was headlined by two of the most charismatic athletes in the world in Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor. While McGregor was preparing for a lightweight title fight, the Irishman eventually decided to do one division up and accept the fight against Diaz at welterweight. Making his debut at 170, McGregor was aware of the unfamiliar territory he was stepping into straight from his triumphant featherweight title win.
While the majority of the MMA world had bet against Nate Diaz, the younger Diaz brother was ready to cause one of the biggest upsets in the sport's history. Starting off the fight, McGregor looked calm and maintained his usual composure. He was being the aggressor the whole time. Diaz, however, being one of the most resilient fighters in the game, took the shots from McGregor and still managed to take down McGregor by the end of round one.
Entering round two, McGregor being 25 pounds over his natural weight certainly didn't help him and it was looking more obvious by the minute. While Diaz was cut open courtesy of his irritated scar tissue, the Stockton Slugger kept moving forward throughout the majority of the round, and with about 1.30 minutes left on the clock, he started throwing bombs. With a minute on the clock, Diaz absolutely brutalized McGregor with severe ground-and-pound and eventually locked in the rear-naked choke and tapped the reigning UFC featherweight champion out.
With the win, Nate Diaz had made a huge statement. It was the biggest triumph of his professional career. Not that he was surprised about it. However, given Conor McGregor's mentality, there was a lot more to this rivalry than just one fight.
UFC 202: McGregor avenges his loss
UFC 202 marked the octagon return of Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz, as both men were set to run it back in the very same year. Diaz, riding high from his first victory, was set for the 2-0. On the other hand, McGregor knew that he couldn't afford to fall to another defeat after his first loss in MMA.
In what was a fight for the ages, Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz took each other to their limits. In a five-round dog fight between the two arch-rivals, McGregor edged past Diaz to avenge his loss and tie the score at 1-1. It was been five years since Diaz made the iconic UFC callout and four years since their last fight. The world continues to wait for the trilogy clash between the two men.