LAS VEGAS (AP) — Moments after Nate Diaz choked out Conor McGregor and punched a big hole in the UFC’s plans, Diaz took the microphone and triumphantly, profanely declared his victory was “no surprise!”
Maybe not to Diaz. The rest of the sport is still reeling from a revolutionary Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The pandemonium caused by Miesha Tate and Diaz had barely subsided when everyone else began pondering the future created by their back-to-back upset victories at UFC 196.
Tate and Diaz scrapped some tentative plans for the promotion’s landmark UFC 200 show in July. Yet they also created many tantalizing new possibilities in a sport that isn’t afraid of a little chaos.
After his stunning dismissal of the touted McGregor, Diaz (20-10) likely could have virtually any fight he wants in two weight classes, perhaps including a title shot at either lightweight or welterweight. He isn’t picking an opponent yet, but he wants a big check.
“I’ve been in this a long time,” Diaz said. “It’ll be nine years. This is my 25th fight here in the UFC, and I’ve been, in the last few years, curious when this is going to pay off. And I think it’s time now.”
For Tate (18-5), her first bantamweight title defense is likely to be a third bout this fall with Ronda Rousey, according to UFC President Dana White. That discounts the possibility of an immediate rematch with Holly Holm, who got choked out with 90 seconds left in their thriller.
Although a third dance with Rousey could be among the most lucrative fights in UFC history, Tate appeared to be the person least interested in choosing her next move.
“The right move feels like drinking a Budweiser and eating cupcakes,” Tate said. “I’ll talk to my management team, and we’ll talk to the UFC. My job as the champion is to fight the next best person, so whoever that is, I’ll fight them.”
As for the beaten Holm and McGregor, they’ll have the chance to regain their luster later this year.
Holm said she would love to fight again next week. McGregor expects to drop back down 25 pounds to featherweight, where he is still the champion.
“I’ll keep my ear to the ground and see who the fans want,” McGregor said. “Whatever the fans want is the fight that makes sense.”
Diaz’s next fight could be the title shot he has long sought — and seemed unlikely to get, given his 5-5 record in his previous 10 bouts dating to 2010.
White suggested he could match Diaz against welterweight champion Robbie Lawler in a certain brawl between two sluggers, while McGregor thinks Diaz will get the next shot at Rafael Dos Anjos, the lightweight champion who dropped out of his bout with McGregor two weeks ago because of a foot injury. Dos Anjos beat Diaz by decision in December 2014.
After Nate’s star-making win, White is eager to hear what the unpredictable Diaz brothers want to do next. Nate is the younger brother of Nick Diaz, the former welterweight contender who couldn’t be in Nick’s corner because he is finishing a suspension for failing his last post-fight drug test.
White also joked that Nate might not return to the cage anytime soon if he follows through on a plan to buy a yacht with his big UFC 196 payday, which included $100,000 in performance bonuses on top of his $500,000 purse and other bonuses.
McGregor predicted he’ll defend his featherweight belt next, likely at UFC 200, even though the 145-pound weight limit is a grueling challenge for his body. The Irish champion is willing to fight former champions Frankie Edgar or Jose Aldo — and he still despises Aldo, who took to Twitter to taunt McGregor moments after the fight.
“Now another man gets a victory over me, and he celebrates it?” asked McGregor, who knocked out Aldo in 13 seconds in December. “That’s the sign of a loser. That’s the sign of a runner-up. That’s not the sign of a champion.”
Tate’s future seems more straightforward: White immediately said Tate will defend her belt against Rousey, who beat Tate twice before getting knocked out by Holm last November.
Trouble is, Rousey is expected to make two movies before she returns to serious MMA training, although neither of her proposed projects has started filming yet.
She isn’t expected to be ready to fight before October at the earliest, but White’s intention to book Tate-Rousey 3 seems to rule out the possibility of a Tate-Holm rematch at UFC 200. That means Holm likely will be forced to fight another contender this summer, but she accepts it as the price for her rapid MMA rise and fall.
“The biggest thing that hurts right now is my heart,” Holm said. “I want to get back in the gym and get better. My whole MMA career has been on this fast course, which I love. I wanted to take this challenge, and I want the rematch, and I want to get back in there.”