After putting Jose Aldo to sleep in merely 13 seconds to unify the UFC featherweight title in December, Conor McGregor must have felt invincible. It was the only time anyone had knocked Aldo out during his illustrious 12-year career and the first time the most decorated 145-pounder in MMA history had lost in a decade.
That performance likely factored into McGregor thinking it wouldn’t be an issue to jump two weight classes in only three months to fight Nate Diaz at welterweight on just 11 days’ notice. McGregor quickly discovered at UFC 196 that it was a major issue.
McGregor admitted Thursday that this was the easiest weight cut of his career because he didn’t have to cut any weight before tipping the scale at 168 pounds. Diaz, meanwhile, reportedly had to shed at least 10 pounds in order to make the 171 pound weight limit for a non-title welterweight affair.
Come fight night, Diaz would enjoy a double-digit weight advantage to go along with his solid chin, lanky frame and superior jiu jitsu game.
Diaz ate plenty of big punches Saturday, but kept coming – much to McGregor’s surprise. The brash Irishman admitted that he went into “panic mode” when he wasn’t able to put Diaz away with strikes that flattened his previous opponents.
“I feel I was simply inefficient with my energy,” McGregor said at the UFC 196 post-fight press conference. “Usually I fight a man, in the division I am champion in, and they crumble under those shots. But Nate took them very well. The weight, I think, allowed him to take those shots well. I think with a little bit of an adjustment and a recognition that with the bigger man you must be a bit more efficient with your striking. You must not put everything into the shots.”
McGregor later reiterated, “I think with a bit of adjustment and a recognition that the heavier man can take – it must take, more than one, more than two, more than three [shots] to put the heavier man away. I think if I go in with that mindset at a heavier weight, I will do fine again.”
What exactly does McGregor mean by a “heavier” and “bigger” man being able to take his shots? Is he referring to a welterweight in general or that Diaz specifically was heavier and bigger than him on Saturday?
It’s very subtle, but there is a difference. If McGregor is saying welterweights in general, then he simply needs to adjust his strategy when fighting in the larger division. However, if he’s saying a “heavier” and “bigger” Diaz, then it comes off as an excuse.
Diaz seemed to think McGregor was insinuating the latter and he wanted to set the record straight, without any solicitation.
“The weight had nothing to do with anything,” Diaz said. “I had to lose some weight. If I had to fight at 155 [pounds] I felt like I could have performed better because I would have been on point, I would have had the sparring and I would have had a good weight cut like I did my last fight.
“I had to come into this fight straight fat-boy-off-the-beach-in-Cabo, but it’s all good. I won because I’m the superior martial artist.”
One rear-naked choke tap out later and it’s a hard lesson learned for McGregor. Sometimes the anyone, anyplace, any time mentality that he’s known for can cost you dearly. In this case, the mystique of “Mystic Mac” has been evaporated.