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Nate Diaz steps in to face Conor McGregor in main event of UFC 196

Kevin Iole
·Combat columnist
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After a day-long search to find an opponent to fight Conor McGregor after lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos withdrew from UFC 196 because of a broken foot, the UFC settled late Tuesday on Nate Diaz.

But in a twist, the McGregor-Diaz fight will be at welterweight, not lightweight, on March 5 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Fox Sports first reported the story. McGregor, the reigning featherweight champion, had wanted to fight dos Anjos so he could become the first UFC fighter to hold two belts simultaneously.

UFC president Dana White told Yahoo Sports Tuesday that he wanted the fight to be at lightweight, but said Diaz asked for it at 165. White said he countered at 160, but then called McGregor.

"Conor said, 'Screw it, let's fight the [expletive] at 170,' " White said. "So that's what we did. The guy is going to go up two weight classes."

White said after he reached the deal with Diaz to replace dos Anjos, he then put two extra bouts on Diaz's contract, meaning Diaz has five fights left on his agreement.

The finalists were Diaz, Donald Cerrone, who won a bout in Pittsburgh on Sunday, and former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. White said he took the pulse of the fan base and said he felt Diaz would be the biggest fight.

"People are really excited to see Conor fight Nate and I think the place is going to go crazy that night," White said.

The women's bantamweight title fight between Holly Holm and Miesha Tate will be the co-main event.