Conor McGregor not only jumping to welterweight, he wants the belt

Conor McGregor acknowledges the fans with a clap of his own during a news conference in Torrance on Feb. 24.

Conor McGregor acknowledges the fans with a clap of his own during a news conference in Torrance on Feb. 24.

(Christina House / For The Times)

Conor McGregor’s startling 25-pound move up in weight to fight former lightweight title contender Nate Diaz at welterweight in Saturday’s UFC 196 is generating great debate.

Does the UFC’s featherweight champion from Ireland pack enough punch to hurt and finish Diaz?

“Who wants to take a punch?” Diaz cracked when asked if he wonders how hard the 145-pound champion can hit in a 170-pound fight. “I’ve been hit hard, man. Let’s see what happens.”


A foot injury led to lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos’ withdrawal last week from defending his belt against McGregor, with Diaz (18-10) stepping in.

In a public workout Wednesday, McGregor (19-2) arrived late, but remained on stage longer than the other three fighters who attended the session: Diaz and women’s bantamweights Holly Holm and Miesha Tate.

During the session, he showed spinning kicks, superior head movement and the ability to stay low, moving upward to strike fast and hard.

McGregor describes his punching power as “insane,” but his coach, John Kavanagh, said his best prediction for method of knockout Saturday is “the leg … that’s what I see.”

Impressive as McGregor’s 13-second knockout victory over Brazilian Jose Aldo in December was – it ended Aldo’s 10-year unbeaten streak – a knockout of Diaz could be more impressive.

“I don’t believe the question is, ‘Is it possible?’ ” Kavanagh said. “It’s, ‘When?’”

Despite the weight jump?

“He’s a fighter,” Kavanagh said. “His belief is based in evidence, in how he trains. And if you train the way he does against the type of people he does, you know what you can do. And that’s why there was no hesitation in accepting the fight at another weight class.”

McGregor says he trains against welterweights, and Wednesday he took delight that he awoke at 168 pounds, not needing to engage in an extreme weight cut that had him looking drawn at 145 pounds in December.

“It’s not that he had to gain weight,” Kavanagh said. “It’s that he didn’t have to lose weight. This is his natural weight. I’m excited to see this.”

McGregor, by fighting at 170 pounds, now has the flexibility with a Saturday victory to remain at the weight to challenge welterweight champion Robbie Lawler at UFC 200 in July.

“That’s there. Why not? That’s probably the leading option,” McGregor said. “I won’t say a bad word about Robbie … but if we fought, I’m too fast.”

McGregor made it clear in his post-workout session with reporters that he’s aware of the financial power he wields by being involved in main events now, and he expressed distaste in allowing Dos Anjos some of those riches.

“Let me see some of these damn bums get up and fight,” McGregor said. “I just hear crying, complaning, tears … they need to fight and make some noise. Right now, I’m seeing a bunch of whiners.

“Dos Anjos is an absolute … he’s still complaining. Stand up and fight!”