Due to the fact that he still owed $75,000 to the Nevada Athletic Commission stemming from a now infamous failed drug test in early 2015, Nick Diaz wasn’t allowed to work his younger brother Nate’s corner at UFC 202 in Las Vegas on August 20th.
On that night, Nate faced Conor McGregor for the second time in a little over five months. In their first encounter he had managed to finish ‘The Notorious’ Irishman via submission in the second round after absorbing some serious punishment early on. In the rematch, however, McGregor fought with less savage intensity and more strategic focus to earn a majority decision win over five spellbinding rounds.
Had he been permitted to offer advice to his sibling between sessions or through the fence from cageside amidst the action, Nick feels as though that result would have been very different.
“Just one inch, that’s the difference between how that fight could’ve gone,” the former Strikeforce welterweight champion said during a guest spot on the Opie Show recently (via MMAFighting). “As far as I’m concerned, I definitely would’ve been that inch.”
“They just wanted to keep me out of there. They know that it would’ve definitely helped him out a lot.”
Diaz, who was even barred from assisting in his sibling’s warm-up routine backstage at the T-Mobile Arena, instead caught the bout on TV in a luxury box far from the heat of the battle.
“I was seeing things in that fight that I would’ve called and told him,” said Nick. “I was seeing things that he wasn’t seeing, because I do these things and I know how they work out for me. It’s kind of like a formula, you know what I mean? And I’m like, ‘Hey look, this is what you do.'”
Still, even without his assistance, the veteran fighter thought Nate was on the verge of finishing the contest towards the end of the middle round, but McGregor clung on throughout that torrid third and roared back in the fourth. Nick feels as though the SBG representative wouldn’t have survived through that rough patch though, were it not for his exile.
“Come the third and fourth round, I think if I would’ve been there, we would’ve been able to put it together and got that guy out of there,” said the 33-year-old.
With Nick absent, two other former Strikeforce champions, Gilbert Melendez and Jake Shields, neither of whom are particularly similar to Nate stylistically, took the lead in the corner.
“The thing about Melendez is, he’s great,” said Nick. “He’s really smart. He knows what he’s looking at. But they’re training partners, and so they’re like kinda opposites stylistically, because he’s more of a wrestler and he goes on top. So the things that Gilbert would tell him to do is more of like what Gilbert would do, and what I would tell him to do is more of what he would do.”
“I’m not saying that it wasn’t helping having Gilbert there telling him to do the wrong stuff — Gilbert wasn’t necessarily telling him to do the wrong stuff, he just wasn’t going to see the things that I was seeing. So that was kinda rough. It’s hard enough to watch being there, and I’m watching on TV, I can’t do anything.”
As was the case in his first fight with Diaz, McGregor had a great deal of success in the opening stanza and the first half of the second at UFC 202. During that time he used his aggressive counter-punching style to inflict real damage on his hardy foe, drawing leads, slipping and landing punishing shots in return. As a result, he dropped Diaz on three occasions and bloodied the Stockton native’s face with his lauded left-hand.
“I would’ve told [Nate] not to throw punches at that dude at all, because he’s going to sit there and watch you and try to counter everything,” said Nick, addressing McGregor’s dominance in those first eight minutes of so. “So all you do is fake at him and flick at him and f*ck with him, and that’s how you do that. But he went out there and just, he just didn’t have it together in the first round, and I think I could’ve clicked him into the right mindset.”
“Plus, me standing in front of him, fooling around with him and standing in front of him with my right hand forward — all three of us stand the same way, so he doesn’t have anybody else like that to kinda work with him, and I just think that it would’ve definitely helped out having me there a little bit.”
Since that night, McGregor has gone on to write his name in the history books by becoming the first UFC fighter to hold titles in two divisions simultaneously. Already the king of the featherweight division, the 28-year-old sensation wrecked Eddie Alvarez inside two rounds to win the lightweight title at UFC 205.
Meanwhile, Diaz lies in wait on the sidelines hoping that he will be granted the chance to settle his feud with McGregor in a third bout. If he does get that opportunity, we might get to see what sort of a difference Nick’s presence in the corner can make.