Conor McGregor’s UFC victory against Nate Diaz was a key reason to licence him as a boxer, the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) confirmed.
McGregor needed licensing to make his boxing debut against Floyd Mayweather on August 26, and the NSAC approved him on the basis of avenging his defeat to Diaz.
I reviewed UFC 202 which was a perfect indicator of Conor’s boxing abilities, NSAC chief Bob Bennett exclusively told Sky Sports.
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.
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.
McGregor, then the UFC’s featherweight (145lbs) champion, was initially submitted by short-notice replacement Diaz in March 2016 before winning their rematch by unanimous decision five months later. Both fights were contested at 170lbs.
Watching footage of the rematch was the final vindication to licence McGregor for the NSAC, who had already been researching his credentials.
I met with McGregor’s manager on three occasions and viewed video that he provided from McGregor’s sparring sessions in Ireland, Bennett said.
I did my own research in addition to watching him spar. This is an approvable bout – he’s the taller, longer, stronger, younger fighter. He has a 21-3 record in MMA with 18 TKO or KO wins.
The NSAC are currently considering requests from Mayweather and McGregor to use 8oz gloves instead of the regulation-sized 10oz. The UFC champion has also requested the use of one international judge.
Watch All Access: Mayweather vs McGregor on Sky Sports Main Event at 10:45pm on Friday.