- By Chris Simmons
When Dana White announced the rematch between Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor last week the fight game let out a collective groan. This was a fight that everyone saw coming but no one wanted to see. It was a moment that allowed for the fans to see one of the issues limiting the UFC’s stranglehold on MMA. Instead of a champion’s title defense or a fight between two closely matched rivals, fight fans got another dose of the UFC favoritism. Dana White let McGregor’s star blind him into making a decision that may, in the long run, lose him fans to organizations like Bellator and WSOF.
The issue starts with Conor McGregor’s insistence on fighting outside of his weight division. While it’s not unheard of for a champion to fight up a weight-class, it is insane to take multiple fights up TWO weights. Especially against a fighter that has already finished him. Only a few of the greatest fighters have ever fought up a weight while holding a belt. Even fewer have ever won another belt in a different weight-class. Usually those that have moved up are older fighters who have a harder time making the weight. In this instance McGregor is on record saying that weight was an added factor in both giving and taking punishment. If this is true why would he take another fight and expect a significant difference in the outcome?
Other fighters have spoken to this point, including Nick Diaz himself, who believes the fight is a “gift” from the UFC to McGregor. Jose Aldo, who is slated to fight for the interim-lightweight title on the same card, acknowledged the fight “doesn’t get anyone anywhere.” When the number one contender and the winner of the first bout thinks this is a bad fight, it does not bode well for the overall reception of the fight itself. This is coming on the heels of McGregor’s last fight where he and Chad Mendes put on a show that, had Mendes had a full camp, may have exposed McGregor worse than Diaz. Now he won’t be able to defend his title for at least another six months because Dana White couldn’t talk him out of a grudge match.
This could be one of the worst rematches in recent memory and that prospect hurts an otherwise great card. No one wants to pay for a rerun of the UFC 196 headliner. Sure, both fighters put on strong performances during the first round. But it became clear McGregor didn’t have the firepower to put Diaz down. And once the fight got to the ground the end was inevitable for the Irishman. It seems that it will be that way once again with McGregor waiting almost a year to defend his title against the number one contender. With big name draws like Benson Henderson and “Rampage” Jackson defecting to other promotions, White will find it difficult to keep talent and produce good fight cards.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Rousey/Holm card only sold because fans wanted to see Rousey could win again, and the only reason anyone watched UFC 196 was to see if McGregor could back up the talk. If Dana’s favorite fighters can hijack their divisions it starts to hurt the integrity and spirit of fighting. The champ defends his belt against the best fighters in their weight, or they give up the belt. That’s the way it’s always been.
(Find me on twitter @Sik0simmons)