Last summer Conor McGregor challenged the UFC champion for his belt, and with 11 days to go, the champ pulled out with an injury. The UFC put in Chad Mendes, with an interim title on the line. McGregor beat Mendes, and when featherweight Jose Aldo came back, he crushed him too.
Now with 11 days to go until UFC 196 on March 5, UFC lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos pulled out of the fight, reportedly with a broken foot. The news was reported by Ariel Helwani for MMA Fighting. ?This is in fact the fourth time in eight UFC fights that McGregor has had his initial opponent pull out.
The UFC is scrambling to find a replacement. It is not likely that an interim belt will be on the line. Thus McGregor’s goal of being the first champion in UFC history to hold two belts simultaneously will likely have to wait.
Tonight on ESPN’s Sports Center, UFC President Dana White announced that Nate Diaz will fight Conor McGregor at UFC 196 and that the fight will take place in the welterweight division:
“We figured this would be the most exciting fight,” White said. “It’s the fight that Conor really wanted. A lot of people wanted to fight Conor McGregor, but Diaz wanted the fight and we figured this was the fight to make and the fight that the fans wanted to see.”
White also indicated that there were fighters on both sides of the fence, some wanting the fight despite short notice and some turning down the offer.
“We called Jose Aldo, Jose Aldo turned the fight down,” White said. “We called Frankie Edgar, Frankie Edgar turned the fight down. We called ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, (and he) absolutely accepted the fight – would love to take the fight. B.J. Penn said he wanted the fight. A lot of guys wanted this fight, but we ended up with Nate Diaz. We felt this was the fight to make and the fight the fans wanted to see.”