LOS ANGELES -- Before the Nate Diaz rematch was pulled from UFC 200 and the whole "publicized civil war" with the promotion took place, the big question on Conor McGregor was whether that confidence and bravado that made him famous would remain fully intact after a humbling loss at UFC 196 in March.
Early indications suggest the answer is yes.
In addition to his two obvious talents (fighting and talking), one thing that has come to define McGregor (19-3) is his risk-taking. He has accepted multiple last-minute opponent changes, even when it meant a championship was no longer on the line. Ahead of his submission loss to Diaz, McGregor agreed to a 170-pound weight limit despite training for a 155-pound bout against champion Rafael dos Anjos.
That mindset apparently has not changed; McGregor told ESPN.com he was adamant that the Diaz rematch take place at 170 pounds. McGregor is the current 145-pound featherweight champion and Diaz is a longtime 155-pound lightweight -- so, 170 seems unnecessarily high this time around. But McGregor wanted the exact same fight he lost.
"What kind of fighter would I be, if I said, 'Hey, I didn't get you at 170, let me try to get you at 155,'" McGregor said. "I'll make my adjustments. I ate up to the weight. This time, I won't do that."
The exact status of the Diaz rematch is uncertain, as the UFC was unable to come to terms with Diaz in a recent meeting. There is a chance the rematch could headline UFC 202 on Aug. 20 in Las Vegas.
McGregor, who had a 15-fight win streak snapped in March, is as confident as ever that he'll be successful against Diaz -- a bigger, longer southpaw who had fought at welterweight before their fight. Diaz went into the contest on 11 days' notice and won via rear-naked choke in the second round.
When that first fight was moved from 155 pounds to 170, McGregor says he stopped working with nutritionist George Lockhart. The final two weeks ahead of the fight, he essentially ate what he wanted and found himself far more energetic than normal; he's usually depleted cutting to 145 pounds. That excess energy led to some decisions he now questions.
"The first eight minutes of the fight was easy," McGregor said. "Let's be honest, I slapped the head off him. Once the gas tank went, that was it. I drowned. He landed that one punch that rang the bell and went, '[Gasp,] I'm back.' He was close to being done. One or two more shots and he would have been wrapped up.
"Swinging on gymnastic rings on fight week isn't the best thing. Usually, I wrap myself in bubble wrap and only do fight-specific things, but just because of that weight, no weight cut, I had put it in my head that, 'I'm free.' I had energy to burn. I was doing so much bounce footwork, the balls of my feet were burned to a crisp. Looking back, it was ridiculous. I don't know what I was thinking."
McGregor, 27, says he has now brought in experts to monitor his cardiovascular output. He's working with Lockhart year-round, even for a 170-pound bout in which he'll cut no weight. As McGregor conducted this interview, with no fight booked, he ate a small serving of fish and vegetables.
"Look at me right now," McGregor said. "Fish, red cabbage, asparagus -- I'm nowhere near a fight ,and I'm on the clock with nutrition."
As the situation gets sorted out with Diaz, the featherweight division will crown an interim champion at UFC 200 on July 9. Former champion Jose Aldo, whom McGregor knocked out in December, is scheduled to fight Frankie Edgar.
There has been speculation as to whether McGregor ever intends to defend his 145-pound title. Although he admitted the weight cut is difficult, he says that it's obviously manageable and that he hasn't ruled out a return to the lighter weight class.
"It was my idea," McGregor said regarding the introduction of an interim title. "I wanted to have my revenge at 170, and they're crying and complaining about the 145-pound belt, which I just won three months ago. That division was killed, it was dead. Jose went down in 13 seconds. What more can I do? I traveled the world with that man. I finally got him in the Octagon, and he only lasts 13 seconds.
"I didn't see a challenge there anymore. So, I wanted to create interest from a fan's perspective and my perspective. I want to see them two go at it, with an interim belt on the line. Then I will see people walking around my division with a belt and that will intrigue me. It will make me want that belt again."