Had it not been for Nate Diaz, Conor McGregor may not have obtained his boxing licence 4 years ago

Had it not been for Nate Diaz, Conor McGregor may not have obtained his boxing licence

Contrary to suggestions this week, the primary strengths of Nate Diaz are boxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu... not Sumo wrestling.

Diaz has some of the best hands in the UFC and he used his stand-up prowess to force Irish rival Conor McGregor into rushing a takedown last March at UFC 196, when 'The Notorious' suffered his first and only defeat inside the Octagon.

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Vast improvements were visible on McGregor's part in the rematch five months later, when the Irishman edged a majority decision to make it 1-1 against Diaz.

UFC 202's headliner was largely decided in the boxing department and the combination of heart and skill from McGregor in his second outing at 170lbs ultimately set up a shot at the 155lbs title against Eddie Alvarez.

But that gutsy victory a year ago did more than that because, apparently, it was in those five rounds against Diaz that McGregor convinced the Nevada State Athletic Commission to licence him for his upcoming boxing debut against 49-0 legend Floyd Mayweather.

Certain eyebrows were raised when the NSAC gave the green light to a fighter with no boxing experience whatsoever to meet Mayweather in the ring but the commission's executive director has since explained the logic behind it.

"I reviewed UFC 202 which was a perfect indicator of Conor's boxing abilities," Bob Bennett told Sky Sports.

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"Then I gave renowned trainer Virgil Hunter a call. I said: 'I heard Diaz was a sparring partner for Andre Ward?'

"Virgil confirmed that Diaz has sparred with Ward at least 12 times. As we know, Ward was a world super middleweight champion and now a light heavyweight champion.

"Diaz had also sparred a dozen times with Brandon Gonzales, a super-middleweight with a record of 18-1-1. He also sparred a dozen times with Andrzej Fonfara, a light-heavyweight with a record of 29-5.

"Virgil believes that Diaz could have been a world class boxer if he hadn't become an MMA fighter. Virgil holds Diaz's boxing ability in high regard.

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"But then look at UFC 202 when McGregor fought Diaz, predominantly striking. McGregor knocked down Diaz in the first and second rounds. McGregor took some hellacious shots to his jaw from Diaz, and they didn't move him. McGregor fired a number of shots that hurt Diaz.

"Watching McGregor in that fight did contribute to me finding [the Mayweather fight] approvable."