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The UFC is a business.
We all know this.
But the first time this notion really set in for me was back at UFC 82 in March 2008.
Back then, I was still very new to the MMA media game (my Web site, JarryPark.com, was about five months old), so I was a little naive to how things went down in the fight game.
But then we learned about former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski getting buried on the UFC 82 untelevised prelims against undefeated wrestler Jake O’Brien and things to started to click for me.
The organization put Arlovski in that spot because it was the last fight on his deal and it was clear he was going to test the free-agent market, which back then was the true road less traveled.
O’Brien was a tough wrestler with a 10-0 record, so not only were they sticking him on — I repeat — the untelevised prelims (yes, some fights never saw the light of day back then), they were putting him in there against an unfavorable opponent.
This was a relatively big story back then because it was so rare to see someone as popular as Arlovski fighting in that spot.
But we later understood why it was going down that way, and that was because he was on his way out. Simple as that. The UFC didn’t want to see someone go over in a big spot in their last fight, just like Memphis Wrestling didn’t like seeing someone go over in their last match before leaving the territory in the 1970s.
(MMA is real pro wrestling, in case you didn’t realize already.)
As as all know, Arlovski took the fight, won the fight, and scored a massive contract with Affliction.
He won that particular battle.
All this sound familiar?
Of course it does. We’ve seen this story before, but perhaps the closest we’ve seen to the Arlovski situation is what is going down now with Nathan Diaz.
Diaz is one of the top 10 biggest draws in MMA.
Diaz is a big star.
Diaz has one fight left on his contract.
Diaz has some potentially high-profile fights and opportunities waiting for him outside the UFC.
Diaz can likely make more outside of the UFC.
The UFC wants him to fight Khamzat Chimaev next.
If you don’t think No. 6 has anything to do with 1-5 you’re kidding yourself.
Put it this way, If Diaz went to the UFC today and said, Forget free agency, let’s just sign a new six-fight deal right now, I guarantee they’d give him someone like Vicente Luque next.