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As Conor McGregor's foe, Nate Diaz has all the attention he wants

The Diaz brothers undoubtedly test the theory that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, yet they continue to find themselves in big fights.

Months after the Nevada State Athletic Commission slapped welterweight Nick Diaz with an extended suspension following a third positive test for marijuana, his younger brother, Nate, claimed “the whole UFC” is abusing steroids.

And that was just a day after Nate had been awarded Saturday night’s main event of UFC 196 against entertaining featherweight champion Conor McGregor of Ireland. The bout will be fought at a welterweight limit of 170 pounds, a sizable jump for McGregor, the 145-pound champion.

“I know what I’m worth and what I put in. They do too,” Stockton’s Nate Diaz told The Times in an interview minutes before airing his steroid claims at a news conference in Torrance last week. “They like to deny it a little bit. They like to push some people and hold certain people back. They’re pushing McGregor to the sky. If I had a push like that, I’d be the hottest thing. … It’s all good. … I wrote that ... off a long time ago.”

The steroid talk doesn’t help their case with UFC management and marketers, but the Diaz brothers’ rebellious spirit and jiujitsu gifts – Nick’s a former Strikeforce champion and has fought UFC legends Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre and Nate lost a 2012 lightweight title fight – have made them popular among many hard-core mixed martial arts fans.

“This is what should happen,” Nick Diaz said of his brother serving as a late replacement for injured lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos (foot) in the UFC 196 main event at MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

“[Nate’s] been in more fights [than other possible fill-ins], he’s put in more work, and you want to see hard work pay off. You want to see the technical aspect prevail. As a fighter, you want to see the light at the end of the tunnel of putting in the work and have it pay off for guys like this. This sport’s not a joke. You work to get where you’re going.”

Nate Diaz explained he originally verbally agreed to fight McGregor at 155 pounds and was one day into a weight cut, but said there was then “a financial disagreement between my management and UFC higher executives.”

“So we said, ‘If you call back, circumstances are going to be different.’ I went to dinner. I wasn’t asking for the fight, they were,” Diaz said. “So [now] we’re up at 170.”

The size could prove decisive, according to Nick Diaz, who said his brother’s boxing training with undefeated former super-middleweight champion Andre Ward in Northern California has created an advanced stand-up fighter dealing with a shorter, naturally smaller opponent.

“[McGregor] wouldn’t last three rounds with Andre Ward, and this guy [Nate] goes 10,” Nick Diaz said. “He’s gotten some real solid experience, not like a lot of MMA fighters who are out there.

“[McGregor’s] not a black belt in jiu jitsu, he’s not a strong wrestler. The most he brings to the table is boxing and while you can say, ‘He brings all these fancy kicks,’ when you’re getting backed up by punches, all that ... is out the door. This guy is probably going to get backed up.”

Nate Diaz (18-10) rebounded from missing weight in a December 2014 loss by decision to Dos Anjos to defeating Michael Johnson in December by unanimous decision in what the UFC ranked its “fight of the night.”

Diaz said he’s expecting more excitement with McGregor, who engaged Diaz verbally at the news conference, igniting an exchange of expletives even though Diaz said just before that he wouldn’t pay attention to McGregor’s words.

“It’s a real fight. He brings action, comes forward,” Diaz said. “It’s going to be an entertaining fight.

“I need some push, too. [The UFC has been] lowballing me on the marketing situation, but I deserve [attention], I put my time in. We’ll see what happens in the future, we’ll see how the fight goes.”

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