Conor McGregor said after his boxing match Saturday vs. Floyd Mayweather that he would like to defend his UFC lightweight championship in his return to the Octagon, and that he would like it to be against Nate Diaz. McGregor, though, added a stipulation: Diaz has to fight him at 155 pounds because their first two bouts were contested at 170 pounds.
“I’m the 155-pound champion, I faced him at 170, he beat me, then I rematched him at 170, I beat him,” McGregor told BBC News. “Now I’m the 155-pound world champion. If he wants that fight, he must come down. That’s a fair trade.
“I didn’t ask for the rematch at a lower weight, I asked for the rematch at the exact same weight. I thought that was a fair-play move on my half and then I came in and I won. So now I won that, then I won the 155-pound title after that. If he wants to fight, he’s got to make that 155-pound limit.”
It didn’t take long for Diaz’s side to issue a rebuttal and spell out what it would need to get the fighter back inside the cage. Diaz boxing coach Richard Perez told Submission Radio:
At least $20 million, $30 million. Come on. UFC’s making a whole lot of money, a whole lot of money and they’re pocketing it. They’re giving more to McGregor, so it’s not fair because it takes two in that ring to draw a crowd. I mean, a good two fighters. It’s just like Mayweather when he fought Berto. It was not even sold out at all. It was embarrassing. It’s because that guy couldn’t draw a crowd. See, that’s what I’m saying, it’s the fighters that draw the crowd, and Nathan and McGregor, third one would be outstanding. Everyone knows that. So he needs to get paid at least $30 million easy.
McGregor and Diaz had their initial bout at UFC 196 in March 2016. Diaz took the fight on 11 days’ notice: McGregor’s scheduled opponent, former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos, had to bow out because of an injury.
Diaz stepped in and shocked the world in submitting McGregor in the second round. At UFC 202 last August, in what many people felt was the fight of the year, McGregor won by majority decision in a back-and-forth war.
Both fights drew well on pay-per-view: the first fight generated a reported 1.5 million buys while the rematch set a UFC record with 1.65 million buys. For his efforts, Diaz made a guaranteed $2.6 million with millions more earned from PPV revenue.
McGregor earned a minimum of $30 million in a losing effort against Mayweather and is expected to earn upwards of $100 million after all revenue is tallied up.
With Ronda Rousey’s return far from certain, a potential two- to four-year suspension of Jon Jones looming, and Brock Lesnar not expected to return until summer 2018, a McGregor-Diaz trilogy fight is the biggest bout the UFC can make at this point.
While Diaz deserves a significant pay bump from the first two fights, even the low end of his team’s demand, $20 million, seems a little much. If he comes to the bargaining table at $10 million to $15 million with PPV bonuses attached to it, then the UFC should agree to it. Diaz would surpass $20 million with no problems and likely would earn closer to $30 million.
The money he made in the first two McGregor fights won’t last forever, unless he’s like Seth Rogan in “Knocked Up” and is beyond frugal. A trilogy fight would be life-changing money that would allow Diaz to never fight again and call it quits.
Diaz has to remember, though, he is the B-side of this equation. McGregor can generate million-buy shows with anyone on the UFC roster; the same can’t be said for his opponents, such as Diaz, Jose Aldo and Eddie Alvarez.
Let’s hope Diaz realizes that and takes a little bit less to make a lot more. If he does that, then everyone will be happy, and the fans can see the long-awaited trilogy fight.
Steven Muehlhausen is an MMA and boxing writer and contributor for Sporting News. You can listen to his podcast, “The Fight Junkies” here . You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and can find him on Twitter @SMuehlhausenMMA .