UFC Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor will fight veteran Nate Diaz in a welterweight bout at UFC 196, president Dana White announced Tuesday live on ESPN.
The news came on the same day it became official that McGregor’s originally scheduled opponent for the March 5 pay-per-view, lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos, had withdrawn from the fight due to a broken foot suffered in training.
Instead of vying for a new title, McGregor (19–2) will have to opportunity to make his UFC debut at 170 pounds. The outspoken champion has made his intention clear that he wants the opportunity to fight for the welterweight belt.
According to White, Diaz was among a list of fighters that wanted to replace dos Anjos, including Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and BJ Penn. He also said that Frankie Edgar and Jose Aldo turned down the short notice fight.
Diaz (19–10) is coming off a unanimous decision win over Michael Johnson on Dec. 19. The Ultimate Fighter Season Five winner has lost three of his last five fights.
McGregor has knocked out his opponents in five consecutive fights. His last bout lasted just 13 seconds, as he KO’d Jose Aldo to claim the featherweight title.
The fight will be a significant jump in weight for McGregor, who usually fights at 145 pounds.