Of the 12 seats on the dais for the kickoff press conference to officially announce several of the bouts for July’s UFC International Fight Week festivities in Las Vegas Friday, only 11 were filled. So UFC President Dana White immediately made it clear that after a crazy week for the promotion, UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor will not be fighting Nate Diaz in the main event of UFC 200 on July 9 at T-Mobile Arena.
“Nate Diaz wants to fight on UFC 200,” White said. “He will fight on UFC 200. We'll find him a new opponent.”
Yet the no-nonsense Diaz is still hoping for a rematch with the man he defeated last month.
“I came to fight Conor McGregor and I don't really have too much interest in anybody else,” the Stockton, California native said. “I don’t have any interest in fighting at all. And if that's what we were gonna do, I thought we were gonna do it.”
And that was that, with White explaining that McGregor’s refusal to fly to Las Vegas and perform his promotional obligations prompted him to make the decision to remove the Dublin star.
“We gave Conor every opportunity to get here,” he said. “It's part of the job. It's the one thing you have to do.”
There was plenty of fistic firepower on that stage at the MGM Grand Garden Arena though, with two featherweights – Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar – watching the proceedings closely. But first, they will fight for the interim 145-pound title at UFC 200 in a rematch of a 2013 bout won by Aldo. After that, they both want “The Notorious” one.
“I would love to go in there and get the finish and then I don't have to worry about the judges, Edgar said. “I feel like momentum’s on my side this time and I'm ready to get it done.”
“I want to get that belt back,” Aldo said. “The first step is Frankie, and after that I'm sure I'll meet McGregor.”
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The two champions of the UFC’s women’s divisions were on hand as well, with strawweight queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Brazil’s Claudia Gadelha keeping it fairly civil with the exception of one early verbal exchange. They’ll be saving everything for their Ultimate Fighter Finale main event on July 8. Respect was never going to be a question in the women’s bantamweight division with champion Miesha Tate and challenger Amanda Nunes, with Tate eager to return after her March upset of Holly Holm.
“I'm excited to fight,” she said. “I love the quick turnaround. I like to make money, I like to beat people up. It's a good day for me.”
As for “The Lioness,” she couldn’t take the smile off her face when discussing her first UFC title shot.
“This is the moment I've been waiting for my whole career,” she said. “Miesha is tough, but I'm going to be ready for this fight. I can't wait to fight for this belt.”
The same could be said for Philly’s Eddie Alvarez, who meets lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos on July 7 in a card airing on UFC FIGHT PASS.
“I'm looking at this as the opportunity of a lifetime and I'm taking it dead serious,” he said. “I'm just grateful to be in the position I'm in, fighting Rafael, and I'm looking forward to becoming the next UFC lightweight champion.”
With four title fights already slated for UFC International Fight Week, fans won’t have a shortage of world-class bouts, but as White pointed out, with July still on the horizon, he and his staff are still working on making it a week to remember.
“200 is a work in progress,” he said.