Nate Diaz was sitting in an unexpected hot seat Wednesday at the UFC 196 press conference alongside Conor McGregor. There was only a moderator, and a war of harsh words between them.
A whirlwind 24 hours had followed since Rafael Dos Anjos announced he was backing out of his UFC 196 title defense against McGregor due to a broken foot sustained while training. Diaz quickly stepped up to be the fill-in for the fight, now with no belt on the line, and he flew in to Los Angeles from Central California early Wednesday morning to fulfill the first of many obligations.
With just 10 days of training in front of him, Diaz had precious little time to prepare for the game before the fight.
Keeping up with UFC featherweight champion McGregor in the Octagon and in front of media presents a stiff challenge for anyone. Especially with a microphone that wasn’t working.
Diaz tried to hurl insults back in McGregor's direction, but his voice was quickly overpowered by the Irishman. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary that McGregor's familiar Irish accent would prevail, until finally Diaz insisted he needed another microphone.
An official handed him a new one, and Diaz was happy to use it. His words were loud when he accused McGregor and all other UFC fighters of being on steroids. It's unclear if he was including himself in that statement.
"They're all on steroids. Everybody. Everybody's on steroids," Diaz said. "The whole UFC. Everybody."
McGregor told him: "Don't put my name in steroids, mate."
The accusation, however, will be splashed everywhere, anyway.
"... I'm not on steroids, what the (expletive) are you talking about?" McGregor asked Diaz. "... Your two teammates were on steroids. Your two boys. The Skrap Pack. Remember that? What happened to them? Did you know they were taking that stuff? Did you?"
Diaz didn't answer the question, and the press conference and barbs raged on afterward.
Stockton native Diaz has landed his big payday, albeit in an unexpected way, a hastily planned battle with McGregor.
Asked how contract negotiations went, Diaz said: "They called me and said 'McGregor wants to fight you.' They gave me a (expletive) of money. I said ‘I want more of that (expletive).' How about that? They called me. I didn't ask."
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As one would expect, McGregor did most of the talking Wednesday, but Diaz held his own. He used plenty of profanities, like McGregor, and didn't wilt under the mental games McGregor likes to play with his opponents before heading into the Octagon.
The true test, of course, is in the Octagon.
"I think I train hard all the time," Diaz said. "I train to kill."
The 30-year-old Diaz, who wore a black, long-sleeved black shirt and jeans, will be on the grandest stage at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 5, and he's had precious little time to prepare for this opportunity. He didn't seem phased.
On Tuesday, not long after signing the agreement to fight McGregor, the veteran fighter Diaz posted on Twitter: "He's going to have to get on his knees and beg."
Diaz doesn't have the fame, fortune or following that McGregor does, and it's not even in the same stratosphere. One website, when posting an article about Diaz being named the fill-in for the fight, mistakenly used a picture of his older brother, Nick. Nick posted it on social media with laughing emojis.
There was no laughing or smiling from Nate Diaz on Wednesday. He simply used lots of profanities, looked straight ahead and was mostly unemotional during McGregor's theatrics. He raised his arms in mock victory celebration.
McGregor has built a powerful brand and empire. These fighters are polar opposites. Diaz has worked his way through the ranks in the UFC.
"I've been in UFC fighting everybody," Diaz said.
When McGregor called him a "gangster" and ripped him for showing gang signs, Diaz said: "(Expletive) you. (Expletive) your belt."
Diaz gave the impression that McGregor was just another in a long line of fighters he's battled over the last decade. He has an 18-10 record versus McGregor's 19-2.
"I don't give a (expletive)," Diaz said. "I want to fight everyone."
There was no physical altercation, nor any shoving or pushing on Wednesday, even when both fighters neared one another for the customary photo opportunity with arms raised. Some fans even chanted "Diaz!" at that time, even though most were cheering and chanting for McGregor.
A UFC official was between McGregor and Diaz from the onset, then another official got in the middle for good measure. There would be no fight before the fight.
Diaz was the top choice to replace Dos Anjos for McGregor. But McGregor said negotiations stalled over the weight at 155, 160 and 165 pounds. They finally agreed on 170.
"There was no hesitation on my part," Diaz said. "Whatever problems they had, I don't know. I came to fight at any weight class."
Diaz made light of McGregor's shorter opponents and seemed to thrive on his experience being an advantage.
"I've been in big-ass shows for how many years before this guy even existed?" Diaz asked.
He'll be in his biggest show at UFC 196, where there will be no need for a working microphone.
Jill Painter Lopez is a reporter for FOX Sports West in Los Angeles. She was an award-winning, longtime sports columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News and has worked for Time Warner Cable in L.A. She is also a contributor to the New York Times. Follow her on Twitter at @jillpainter