Nate Diaz and Michael Johnson are two fighters at very different stages of their careers.
Diaz is the grizzled veteran who has been through everything inside the Octagon during his eight-plus year UFC career. Johnson is in his prime and potentially on the doorstep of a title shot.
But fortunes change quickly in the UFC and a win for Diaz puts him right back in the center of the title picture, and Johnson knows that a game Diaz presents a tough test.
“It’s an incredible fight. I’m happy that Nate Diaz looks like he’s coming in shape and he’s ready to fight,” Johnson said. “Hands down, Nate Diaz, you know he’s one of the best in the division. Nobody can take that away from him, and I’m really excited to get in there and fight somebody that’s going to fight me back.”
If there’s anything that can be said without a doubt about both Diaz and his brother Nick, when they come to fight, they bring it.
Diaz said things won’t be any different Saturday night. He’s trained hard for the fight and is confident he’s going to put on a great performance.
“(Johnson) comes in and he punches you and tries to win,” Diaz said. “He’s not the most popular guy, but I’ve seen him do some good stuff. It’s definitely going to be a fight. I trained and I’m here to fight.”
Johnson’s popularity and reputation have been on the rise as the Blackzilians fighter ran off four wins in a row before a controversial split decision loss against Beneil Dariush last time out.
But Johnson said that although he still hasn’t moved on from the disappointment, nobody looks at that result as a loss. Johnson received his win bonus despite the judges’ decision.
“(Getting a win against Diaz) gets me back in title contention if not fighting for the title next,” Johnson said. “I definitely have something to prove. Not only just with (the Dariush) fight, but in this whole division.
“I still think people aren’t respecting me as much as they should. People are overlooking me as quite possibly the best in the division, and I really think that I am.”
Johnson added that fans are set for a fight of the year candidate when he and Diaz scrap Saturday.
“It has potential to be fight of the year,” Johnson said. “Edson (Barboza) and Tony (Ferguson) put on a great fight the other week and it’s going to be hard to beat that. But if Nate comes in just like I think he is, and I’m gonna always come to perform, it’s definitely going to be a fight the fans can’t miss.”
Matt Parrino is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MattParrinoUFC
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