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McGregor​’s career prospects prosper after monumental UFC 202 war with Diaz

Lee Gormley | August 25, 2016

McGregor’s career prospers after Diaz revenge

“Surprise, surprise, mother-f******, the king is back.”

Those were the immediate words of Conor McGregor after gaining his long-desired redemption over Nate Diaz at UFC 202, with the Irishman having secured a majority decision victory in what was a bloody battle for the ages in Las Vegas.

In front of a rapturous, sold-out T-Mobile Arena crowd, McGregor produced a more tactical performance to avenge his previous UFC 196 submission defeat, with his epic five-round octagon war captivating those who watched on in Sin City.

UFC 202 Mixed Martial Arts

Earlier this year, the UFC was sold for a mammoth $4 billion in what was the biggest transaction for a single franchise in sports history. But just a month later, McGregor and Diaz offered undeniable evidence that it was worth every last penny.

As well as seeing his rivalry with previous conqueror Diaz reach another enthralling chapter, McGregor’s position as the biggest draw in the sport was reassured after much backlash from that March defeat, and the Irishman now has a host of options in the pipeline.

Redemption gained by ‘the Notorious’

After what was a monumental rematch at UFC 202, both McGregor and Diaz outlined intentions of settling the score and going at it again in a trilogy, one which ‘the Notorious’ is the odds-on 4/7 favourite with Coral to prevail once more.

The Dublin native had been scorned by his initial shock loss, and completely revamped his training preparations in order to successfully bounce back like a true champion, having tailored his approach specifically for the towering threat of Diaz.

UFC 202 Mixed Martial Arts

Similar to their first meeting, McGregor started swiftly in the opening round with an array of vicious leg kicks halting Diaz’s movement and leaving his standing leg battered and bruised. The Irishman then downed the Californian with a trademark straight left but refused to pounce, calling for him to rise from the mat.

The second round saw a further two knockdowns for the Dubliner, as he continued to find Diaz’s chin, but again he preserved his energy rather than going for an all out assault, with such instructions being voiced vociferously by mentor John Kavanagh in his corner.

Diaz rallied back in the latter stages and smelled blood, though possibly his own, as he began to hunt McGregor, who he sensed was tiring towards the end of the second, identically to their initial bout. Though, ‘the Notorious’ survived a late surge, but he had to withstand further pressure in the third and was visibly breathing heavily.

UFC 202 Mixed Martial Arts

The third saw Diaz take back some control but McGregor was able to weather the storm, and by the fourth round, the Stockton fighter’s face had become a mess, as he was forced to constantly rub the trickling blood from his eyes.

Unlike in the first fight, McGregor showed tremendous endurance, gained from his devoted training camp, and gained a second wind, which ultimately saw him survive a worrying takedown in the dying seconds. Diaz then respectfully helped him from the canvas for a short embrace following an incredible fight.

What weight for McGregor next fight?

The ball is well and truly back in McGregor’s court after his latest success, with the UFC featherweight champion now possessing a variety of options for his next move, though he’ll possibly have to wait until next year to fight again after receiving a six-month medical suspension.

UFC 202 Mixed Martial Arts

A single look at McGregor in the octagon against Diaz proved he was undersized at 170lbs, meaning the Irishman’s ventures in the welterweight division may have come to an end at UFC 202. Nick Diaz, older brother of Nate, is a mouth-watering proposition after returning from hiatus, though, with a chaotic build-up guaranteed for such a bout.

A highly lucrative meeting with the best ever welterweight George St-Pierre is a fantasy bout, though will likely remain just that. The former welterweight kingpin vacated his title in 2013 after 12 straight wins and has hinted at a return, though McGregor would have to remain at the higher unforgiving weight.

McGregor’s next move could realistically be a lightweight title fight against recently crowned champion Eddie Alvarez, with the Irishman having been initially scheduled to take on earlier dethroned Rafael dos Anjos before colliding with Diaz in March.

No UFC fighter has ever held two belts simultaneously and it’s a record McGregor will likely look to break next at a more favourable 155lbs, with the featherweight title holder able to match Philadelphia fighter Alvarez’s height and holds a five-inch reach advantage.

Mayweather or featherweight defence?

It was only in December that McGregor ended Jose Aldo’s decade-long reign in the 145lbs division, a win which propelled him to UFC superstardom, and he is 8/15 to overcome the Brazilian again in a potential rematch.

The former dominant featherweight champion saw his time at the top ended in just 13 seconds by McGregor, but has since earned himself a title shot when outpointing Frankie Edgar. Aldo would enter at 6/4 to gain revenge, having been relentlessly chasing a second meeting since that stunning knockout defeat.

UFC 202 Mixed Martial Arts

McGregor has already admitted his lack of motivation for such a rematch and the bout would require him to undergo a drastic weight cut in order to compete. Would the UFC’s biggest star be willing to go through such inconvenience to collide with a man he already dealt with in the blink of an eye? Unlikely.

Another intriguing option which came to light before the second Diaz bout, and was alluded to by McGregor once again in the second post-fight press conference, was a mammoth money match-up with retired, undefeated boxing star Floyd Mayweather.

Many were quick to overlook the clash between boxing and MMA icons as mere speculation, but both fighters have admitted that it’s an option, with Mayweather even claiming he wouldn’t return for his 50th bout unless it was against McGregor.

UFC 202 Mixed Martial Arts

The Irishman has transcended his current sport, becoming a national hero in his homeland and regaining his aura of supremacy in the UFC by overcoming Diaz, but he is a huge 9/1 outsider to taste similar success against boxing’s former pound-for-pound kingpin Mayweather.

Whatever his next move, McGregor has solidified his stature as the UFC’s leading light and, with New York now a legal potential stomping ground and new organisation owners on board, there are many more huge fight nights ahead for the notorious one.

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