Lobov “interested” in bout with Diaz teammate Avila at UFC 202


Last night, in what may believe was the greatest mixed martial arts interview of all time, Ariel Helwani picked the brain of Nate Diaz as to whether his rematch with Conor McGregor is likely to happen in August at UFC 202.

During The MMA Hour broadcast, Diaz claimed that UFC had floated the idea of his teammate Chris Avila being handed a debut fight against McGregor’s SBG stable mate Artem ‘The Russian Hammer’ Lobov on the same night.

Speaking today from Dublin, Lobov claimed that it isn’t the first time that a potential bout between the two has been suggested.

“The first time Diaz and Conor fought, Diaz’s camp kind of suggested that UFC should put Avila on against me,” said Lobov. “I’m guessing the UFC picked up on that from what Nate said to Ariel Helwani. This is a fight that he thinks UFC want to put on the same night that they rematch, but the negotiations have to go smoothly between Conor and Nate to make that happen.”

Like Lobov, Avila is known for his knockout power. According to the TUF finalist, a bout pitting the two against each other “makes sense” in a time when fans want a storyline to support fights that appear on UFC cards.

“I haven’t seen many of his fights, but I did see one around the time that all the rematch talk started where he finished a guy standing,” he said. “I don’t think he’s fought many high-level guys to be honest. I don’t think he’s had that many fights.

“Obviously, Diaz has a very famous camp, if he’s pushing this guy he must have a decent skill set. I’m interested in that fight. I think it would be an interesting one because this will be the first time that sort of thing has happened, two training partners of the main event pairing fighting each other.

“This is a time when people crave exciting fights, fights that have a story line to them, so I think it makes sense.”

After stepping up to take Rafael Dos Anjos’s slot in the main event against McGregor at UFC 196, the Stockton native constantly underlined his belief that the Irishman didn’t have high-level training partners. Lobov claims he did not take offense from Diaz’s jibes but stated that it would be nice to prove Diaz wrong by knocking Avila out.

“I really didn’t take any offense to that because Conor had a nice shiny belt wrapped around his waist while he was saying it. That in itself proves the quality of his training partners.

“Fame and skill are two different things, and people often confuse the two of them. If someone is not very famous people assume they are not good fighters. At one time Conor McGregor wasn’t famous, but he had the skill to make people aware of who he was. He has gone on to become a world champion.

“Diaz’s camp have been around for a lot longer than ours in terms of the UFC and people know more of their guys as a result of that. That does not mean that the fighters in our camp are not as good as the ones that are in their camp. It would be nice to prove that to them by knocking this guy out.”

A rematch between Diaz and McGregor is being labeled as the most anticipated rematch of all-time. Lobov agrees that Diaz is a draw, but he thinks any bout with McGregor would sell based on his trajectory under the UFC banner.

“The truth is any fight that Conor has draws a lot of interest. With each fight, the interest grows. The interest around this rematch is about Conor more than anything else.

“They’re saying this will be one of the biggest fights ever in the history of the promotion, but they also said that about his last fight. Then the one before that with Aldo was meant to be the biggest. Then it was the one before that. It’s just a natural progression for Conor. If he took on Aldo or Dos Anjos now, the interest would be just as big.

“I’m not too sure it makes a difference that Nate is the opponent. If they had Nate versus anyone else would the interest be as big? I don’t think so. If it was Conor versus whoever else, it would still go over a million pay-per-views.

“Nate is certainly a draw. There’s no doubt about that. He’s been around a long time and he has a very exciting fighting style. He marches forward, he talks to his opponents and that kind of thing is very appealing to fight fans. That being said, if he was going fight anybody else there wouldn’t be the same interest.”

Finally, Lobov explained that his time on the shelf since his loss to Alex White in February has been frustrating, but he is confident that he will prove himself worthy of the world’s largest MMA platform in his next outing.

“At this stage, I’m certain that I’m getting a fight. Obviously, it’s been a frustrating time for me because you never want to sit on a loss. When football teams suffer a loss they get the opportunity to redeem themselves the next week. For us, if we lose we have to wait a very long time before we can fight again, which is very frustrating.

“I do think I have the skillset and ability to be here, and I think that will show in my next fight.”


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