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Conor McGregor’s need for revenge led to his rematch with Nate Diaz

Conor McGregor trains in Las Vegas on Friday.
(Isaac Brekken / Getty Images)

Conor McGregor counts a fast-spinning, brilliant mind and a hot temper that have helped make the Irishman the UFC’s most popular fighter.

The last time McGregor was in the octagon, though, he tapped out in the second round after a rear naked chokehold by Nate Diaz.

McGregor, the UFC featherweight champion, had moved up a massive 25 pounds in March to fight Diaz, a replacement opponent, on less than two weeks’ notice.

Within minutes of his upset loss, McGregor wanted a rematch with Diaz.

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Was that McGregor’s temper — or his business acumen talking? McGregor said: “I’m sure it’s a little bit of both.”

The McGregor-Diaz pay-per-view rematch is Saturday night in UFC 202 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

“If you look at the history of the fight game, especially in this new era, it’s full of stars cherry picking their opponents,” McGregor told The Times. “When they hold a position of power, when they get a name, all of a sudden they pick weaker opponents. They look down their division. Nobody looks up a division. Nobody looks at true challenges.

“Then, once in a blue moon, when that true challenge can’t be denied, like the [Floyd] Mayweather-[Manny] Pacquiao situation, it happens.

“But when you look at this Canelo [Alvarez] situation,” who surrendered his middleweight belt to fight anonymous English 154-pound champion Liam Smith instead of unbeaten middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, and Golovkin turning around to fight 147-pound champion Kell Brook for his next opponent, “it’s an era of cherry picking,” McGregor said.

“It’s not like that with me. I’m here to challenge myself. I’m training to go up two divisions, and it’s going to be a great fight,” he said.

McGregor (19-3) smacked Diaz (19-10) with powerful shots in the first round in March, blows McGregor believes would’ve knocked out any 145-pound featherweight. But when McGregor landed them against the 170-pound welterweight, Diaz, it proved disastrous.

McGregor soon succumbed to Diaz’s bigger punches in the second round.

He was classy in his praise of Diaz in the post-fight news conference, then met with then-UFC chairman Lorenzo Fertitta and President Dana White that night to request a rematch that was granted.

However, McGregor blew off a summer news conference in favor of training in Europe, postponing the rematch from July 9.

The Irishman said he needed to properly prepare for a fight he believes is the most attractive one possible for fans.

“I feel like I didn’t prove what I know I can [do] and I want an opportunity to correct that error,” McGregor said. “What other fight made sense [for me] at that current time?

“I had knocked out the previous champion [Brazil’s Jose Aldo] in [13] seconds, and the guy with the lightweight belt [Rafael dos Anjos] didn’t show up to fight me, he had [wimped] out. What else was I going to do?”

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimespugmire


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