Conor McGregor’s UFC Featherweight title was not on the line in his rematch against Nate Diaz at UFC 202, but McGregor had so much to lose, according to him.
McGregor said that the backlash after his loss to Diaz at UFC 196 helped motivate him to build himself physically for the 170-pound rematch.
"This was a hell of an important fight for me," McGregor said at his UFC 202 post-fight press conference. "Everyone, from the media to the fighters, wrote me off for this one. They tried to say if I lose this one, I'm done. They tried to discredit the fact that I'm going up in weight. He was 25 to 30 pounds heavier than me, I don't care what anyone says. He was a big boy in there. He was easily 190 pounds. I was 167 leaving for the fight and I was saying to myself, I need to eat, try and get up at least over 170."
McGregor said that Diaz was a much bigger fighter in the rematch, but that his preparation and training camp did a great job in getting him ready for Diaz, who also had a full camp to prepare for McGregor. Both fighters had only less than two weeks to get ready for each other after Rafael dos Anjos, McGregor’s original opponent for UFC 196, pulled out with an injury.
"He got even bigger from the first fight," McGregor said. "He was way bigger than the last time, so over that five months or whatever it was since the last fight, he grew. So I knew I was up against it and I was thinking in my head maybe this could be a mistake, but I said fuck it, I train hard, be smart, learn from your mistakes, go in confident. And that's what we did, and I'm happy with it."
After the win, McGregor said that seeing people celebrate his loss to Diaz at UFC 196 lit a fire inside him. He had a message to every single person that doubted him: "Doubt me now."