The Nathan Diaz dilemma, and other random thoughts
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Some late night thoughts as we head into Saturday …
* One of the most interesting stories to monitor over the next few weeks/months will be Nathan Diaz’s future. Here’s what we already know:
a. He has one fight left on his current UFC contract.
b. He wanted to fight Vicente Luque; Luque wanted to fight him.
c. The UFC, for unknown reasons at this time, didn’t want to make that fight.
d. He has now set his sights on Tony Ferguson.
Unclear how the UFC feels about the Ferguson idea. Remember, they were supposed to fight back in July 2017, but the bout never materialized. It would certainly make sense for both, considering how their last couple fights went, and a showdown in Anaheim on Jan. 22 at UFC 270 would be blockbuster, as I noted earlier today:
Now, historically, the UFC has rarely let names as big as Diaz fight out their deals. They either agree to a new contract long before the last fight or right before. But these are different times. I mean, you have the heavyweight champion, Francis Ngannou, out here openly challenging the system, among other things as of late.
Obviously, Diaz deserves to be paid. He is one of the most popular fighters in UFC history. If I were advising him, I’d advise him to fight out the deal. That’s no knock on the UFC, it’s just smart business. If Dana White was his manager, he’d tell him to do the same.
There’s a lot of money for him to make in either UFC, Bellator, boxing, etc., but he won’t truly know his value unless he tests the market. He’s a massive, dare I say, needle mover. The question now is, does the UFC let him fight it out, and if they do, do they force him to fight a guy who would be a very unfavorable matchup to hurt his stock on the way out? Maybe promise him that McGregor trilogy fight, despite it being a year away because of McGregor’s injury, to keep him at bay?
All scenarios are currently in play and none would surprise me. But it is very peculiar to have a name like Diaz openly campaign for fights that one would presume are easy to make (who wouldn’t want to fight him?) and yet they don’t get made. What’s the holdup? What’s the hesitation? Hmm.
Interesting days ahead …
* Paulo Costa’s aloofness and unprofessionalism this weekend has been pretty amazing to witness. In case you missed it, he showed up in Las Vegas for his middleweight fight with Marvin Vettori well overweight, so they agreed to a 195-pound catchweight. Fine. Then on Thursday, word gets out that he can’t make 195 either, so they agree to a 205-pound bout. That’s twenty pounds above the agreed-upon weight! And yet, he seems completely nonchalant and unapologetic about it all. If he’s doing all of this on purpose to position himself as one of the biggest heels in the sport, God bless. It’s working.
Even the subtle wiping of the hands move on the scale was perfect. Heck, he’s even made the usual XPac-heat-ish Marvin Vettori into the ultimate babyface this week. That’s damn impressive. But the pressure is no doubt on Costa. If he craps the bed on Saturday, I don’t think it’s crazy to think the UFC might cut him. He needs to show up and perform.
* Someone on Twitter asked me why Costa is being vilified, yet no one seemed to mind when Nick Diaz didn’t want to cut weight last month. Fair point, though, Diaz raised this issue long before fight week; it just never got out. Also, Diaz has earned some clout in this game. He gets to play by different rules. That’s just how it goes when you are an OG.
* Vettori deserves massive props for how he’s handled this nonsense all week. Vettori thinks I don’t like him, but that’s not true. I appreciate his passion and fiery attitude. Does he sometimes take things too far? Sure. But it’s harmless. Well, he’s come across as a pro throughout all of this and has no doubt made new fans. If he can win, he’ll owe Costa a thank you because this has been quite the babyface turn coming off the loss to Israel Adesanya in June.
* I’m ready for some Saturday weirdness: between Vettori vs. Costa, the return of Fedor Emelianenko in Russia, Mariusz Pudzianowski vs. “Bombardier” and Glory Collission 3, there’s a lot of weirdness to be had. I can’t wait.
* It was another busy week around these parts. Here are some things I did that I am proud of:
a. One-on-one with superstar Renee Paquette:
b. Monday’s The MMA Hour with Jorge Masvidal, Dillon Danis and others:
c. Wednesday’s The MMA Hour with Rose Namajunas, Jan Blachowicz, Fedor Emelianenko and others:
d. The Ringer MMA show weekend preview:
e. Fights to watch for BetMGM:
And I think that’s it. Phew. Having a blast.
Roll on Saturday. See you for our Ringer MMA post-fight show on Spotify Greenroom immediately after Vettori x Costa ends.
Enjoy the fights.
(Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)