The Conor McGregor show rolls back into Las Vegas, Nevada on Saturday 5 March, with the charismatic featherweight champion and self-proclaimed king of the fight game stepping up two divisions against Nate Diaz at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Where to watch
Fans on this side of the Atlantic can watch UFC 196 live on BT Sport 2, with coverage of the preliminary bouts due to commence at 1am in the early hours of Sunday morning. The main card, which also features an exciting co-main event as Holly Holm provides the opening defence of the women's bantamweight title she won from Ronda Rousey against Miesha Tate, is expected to get underway two hours later. McGregor and Diaz should enter the octagon at approximately 5.30am.
It was not originally supposed to be this way. After his incredible 13-second destruction of long-tenured featherweight champion Jose Aldo in December, McGregor had planned to use the eagerly anticipated UFC 196 event as a platform to become the first man in the promotion's history to hold belts from two different weight divisions concurrently. Rafael dos Anjos initially obliged that request, only for the lightweight title-holder to later break his foot during training camp.
This is the fourth time in just eight bouts that McGregor has had to contend with such a withdrawal and the list of potential replacements ranged from Frankie Edgar, Eddie Alvarez and Khabib Nurmagomedov to Anthony Pettis, Tony Ferguson, BJ Penn and Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone. There was even brief talk of a possible rematch with Aldo, although it never looked likely that the Brazilian would be in a position to accept so soon after that brutal loss.
Never one to shy away from a brawl, Diaz took the challenge on just 12 days notice. A stalwart of the UFC's light and welterweight divisions, the tough Stockton native, younger sibling of fellow MMA fighter Nick, famously called out "The Notorious" during an expletive-filled tirade that immediately followed his unanimous decision victory over Michael Johnson in Florida. The two men have exchanged frequent barbs since then and the explosive final press conference nearly came to blows after McGregor took exception to a feisty Diaz's right hand being positioned so close to his face during a heated stare down.
Adjusting his gameplan to cater for an entirely different match-up, McGregor's preparations will also have been affected by the considerable difference in terms of weight. The 27-year-old, who fought at 145lbs as a featherweight, was set to jump up to 155 to meet Dos Anjos. President Dana White has revealed that the possibility of 160 and 165 were discussed with Diaz, before the two camps finally settled on a welterweight contest at 170. Given that he usually weighs around 177 before drastically cutting down in the days before a fight, making that limit will have been no issue for the champion.
What they've said
Conor McGregor: "I'm a lion in there and I'm going to eat you alive. Your little gazelle friends are going to be looking through the cage watching your carcass getting eaten alive and all they're going to say is, 'we're never crossing this river again'. People run scared all the time. I've hunted him down, I've stalked him. And on Saturday night I will eat his carcass in front of all his gazelle friends.
"I'm going to toy with the young boy. I'm going to play with him. His patterns are identical. He's very predictable. People gave Jose the speed advantage but that was a mistake. He's heavy on he's lead foot but now he's like an injured gazelle, he's heavy on his left foot.
"I like Vegas, when I come here I do really, really enjoy Vegas. I've buried three bodies clean out here. On Saturday there will be a fourth. The dirt is clean, you can scoop it up easy and bury bodies in there. I will continue to do that.
"Look at Nate's last fight — $20,000 to show, $20,000 to win, not even a win bonus. His full check wasn't even a Performance of the Night bonus, now he's out there popping his cherry and he's going to make his first million. He really should be thankful and be grateful for this opportunity that I am giving him. Don't talk about money, you're broke."
On fighting at 170: "It's certainly been enjoyable. It's been different to wake up and have a choice of food. There's been no adjustment of any kind. That is ultimately what it should be."
McGregor: 21 MMA fights, 19 wins (17 via knockout)
- (W) Jose Aldo - knockout - December 2015
- (W) Chad Mendes - technical knockout (punches) - July 2015
- (W) - Dennis Siver - technical knockout (punches) - January 2015
Diaz: 28 MMA fights, 18 wins (four via knockout)
- (W) Michael Johnson - unanimous decision - December 2015
- (L) Rafael dos Anjos - unanimous decision - December 2014
- (W) Gray Maynard - technical knockout (punches) - November 2013
Betting odds (Betfair)
- McGregor: 3/1
- Diaz: 12/1
Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz
Holly Holm vs Miesha Tate
Gian Villante vs Ilir Latifi
Corey Anderson vs Tom Lawlor
Amanda Nunes vs Valentina Shevchenko
Brandon Thatch vs Siyar Bahadurzada
Erick Silva vs Nordine Taleb
Vitor Miranda vs Marcelo Guimaraes
Darren Elkins vs Chas Skelly
Diego Sanchez vs Jim Miller
Jason Saggo vs Justin Salas
Julian Eroso vs Teruto Ishihara
BT Sport is your home of unmissable live sport and the only place to watch UFC 196: Conor McGregor v Nate Diaz & Holly Holm v Meisha Tate. Tune into BT Sport 2 live from 1.00am on Saturday 5th March. For more info visitbtsport.com