Come January 2019, it will be four years since we saw Nick Diaz in a UFC octagon, and it will also be seven years since he last won a fight. For a select few fighters, however, statistics mean nothing. The Diaz brothers, Brock Lesnar, and Ronda Rousey are just a few names that can attract a large audience despite having a less than desirable win/loss record. For that reason, when ESPN’s Brett Okamoto reported a Nick Diaz vs. Jorge Masvidal fight at UFC 235 in March, it made a lot of people in the MMA community very happy. But this particular matchup also feels like a missed opportunity, as a certain Irishman has a date free.
Looking at the landscape of UFC’s welterweight division, Masvidal is a perfect comeback fight for Nick Diaz. While Masvidal is a top fighter, he’s no Tyron Woodley or Stephen Thompson. He has never beaten the elite of his division. So for this reason, it is the perfect opponent for the former Strikeforce champion. And potentially being on a card with Brock Lesnar does not hurt one’s stock either. However, Stockton’s favourite son has serious star power, and this fight does not do him or UFC justice.
“F**k, he’s a huge star,” Joe Rogan said when discussing Nick Diaz’s star power on his podcast, and coming from UFC’s number one commentator, that’s a big statement. It’s also not a false statement, in a rather strange way; the Stockton native’s star status has only grown during his four years out. His antics like him lying down in the cage against Anderson Silva have become legendary, and new fans have seen these clips and grown a fondness for this crazy and entertaining character. Plus, his fights are never boring. Remember that Paul Daley brawl? For all these reasons, a fight with Conor McGregor makes perfect sense.
Sporting logic has long gone out of the window for UFC, I mean, I just mentioned Brock Lesnar fighting at UFC 235 (against Daniel Cormier!). For Dana White and his superiors, it’s about big fights and paying off that magic 4.2 billion. History tells us a Diaz/McGregor bout is big business, and replacing Nate with his older brother who is crazier and better, and pitting him up against a Conor McGregor that is a bigger and better fighter is a combination made in MMA heaven. It’s a license to print money and break records.
While this fight may sound like a “cash grab,” and to an extent it would be, there is also a narrative driving this. Nate Diaz lost to Conor McGregor at UFC 202, which sets the table for a Nick Diaz vs. Conor McGregor showdown because now big brother is trying to avenge his little brother’s defeat. The story is simple, emotionally charged, and relatable. And if the melee of Khabib/McGregor proved anything, it is that we all love a good story.
Also, this pairing would be a win-win scenario for the UFC. Despite the plethora of exciting matchups we have ahead of us, very few of them will actually deliver big pay-per-view numbers. Will Henry Cejudo and TJ Dillashaw surpass 400, 000 buys? Highly unlikely considering Cormier and Stipe could not. Can the company rely on Jon Jones to stay active? How long will Brock Lesnar be around for? Will George St-Pierre ever fight again? So many questions, but with a Nick/McGregor matchup, win or lose, you’ll walk out with two huge stars. Another loss, while not ideal, will not hurt ‘Mystic Mac’s’ ability to draw a million plus PPV buys. A win would skyrocket Nick, and even if he were to lose in an entertaining fight, it would give UFC another attraction.
If this fight does happen, weight could be an issue. Both men traditionally fight in two separate weight classes. However, with the rumours of a 165 division coming, we may have an even playing field for both fighters. Also, the Irishman has a rematch with Khabib on his mind, but as we have seen with Mr. Lesnar, some fighters just need to win, and they can leapfrog an entire queue and get a title shot. Let us not forget Dana’s case for awarding the current WWE champion a title shot. He beat Mark Hunt over two years ago (a victory that became a no contest due to Lesnar’s failed drug test).
As I mentioned earlier, for some fighters, statistics are irrelevant. Certain fighters possess that “it factor” that makes you want to tune in, and Nick Diaz is one those fighters. He is special, and his return should be just that, special. With no clear plan for UFC’s PPV king, it is the perfect time to add to another chapter to the Diaz/McGregor story.