Daniel Cormier has stepped in for Alexander Gustafsson to meet Jon Jones at UFC 178 in September. That comes on the heels of Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier being added to the blockbuster card. Which was followed by the announcement Nick Diaz is returning to the UFC early next year, and with it the informed chatter saying Anderson Silva is a highly likely opponent.
It was such a jam-packed news week, you almost forgot the Nevada Athletic Commission hearings, the ones which put the smack down on Chael Sonnen while also opening the door for Vitor Belfort.
So with a Robbie Lawler vs. Matt Brown slobberknocker on tap, let's get right into another edition of Fightweets.
Return of Stockton's finest
@Elcujorino: NICK F--ING DIAZ!!! Outside of Silva who would you want his opponent to be? I vote Lawler/Brown loser!
ElCujorino's response was pretty much representative of my entire timeline in the wake of the news of his contract extension. As for potential opponents, let's not kid ourselves: As long as Anderson Silva is physically able to make a go of it, again, then Diaz vs. Silva is the only bout to make. It's got all the elements to be one of those breakthrough fights, the ones that happen every once in awhile that manage to break through and become the biggest event in sports that weekend (OK, not if it's Super Bowl weekend, but you get my point). Silva's return fight vs. anyone is going to be a big draw. Diaz on his own, making his return, was going to be a draw. Stylistically, the fight has the potential for fireworks. And the bout isn't necessarily the mismatch everyone would have been assumed a couple years back, not when Silva is 39 and coming off such a gruesome injury. If Silva can turn back the clock a few years and put in a vintage performance? Sure, it would be ugly for Nick. But that's no guarantee.
Diaz made his stand. He got a taste of the sport's biggest money when he fought Georges St-Pierre last year and he decided, after all those years of hard battles for substantially less then GSP money, that he was going to wait until he could make that type of money again rather than take a smaller fight for its own sake. There's very short list of fighters you can reliably make that sort of money with with GSP out who could reasonably be matched with Diaz. There's Silva, and then ... well, there's Silva.
Now, if it turns out for some reason that Silva can't return, or gets delayed for a significant amount of time, then there are two other obvious Diaz bouts which could headline a pay-per-view: A rematch with Carlos Condit, or a rematch with Robbie Lawler. Those wouldn't make Diaz money on the level of a Silva or GSP fight, but would still be solid draw in their own right, given their respective backstories.
Whether you love Nick Diaz or hate him, Diaz stays true to his beliefs. He decided to wait on what he wanted, and he got it. If nothing else, Diaz deserves respect for his consistency.
McGregor and the art of hype
@lamarhimself: If Conor McGregor wins the belt will he be the first successful guy who is hyped up early on?
Are you kidding me, man? You can go all the way back to Royce Gracie, who had his own brother designing the brackets for him all the way back at UFC 1. UFC started as basically a Gracie informercial and Royce turned it into a self-fulfilling prophecy in his fights.
In the modern era? The name Brock Lesnar might ring a bell. He had a level of hype which dwarfed McGregor's. He came into the UFC with just one pro fight under his belt. He became UFC heavyweight champion in just his fourth bro bout. Even if McGregor goes on to win the featherweight title, nothing will be as surreal as watching Lesnar stalk around the Octagon wearing the belt that night in the MGM after finishing Couture.
And while there are obviously huge differences between Lesnar's path and that of McGregor, looking back at Lesnar's rise remains a good case study just how precisely the planets need to align in order for that once-or-twice-per-decade superstar to come along.
First, you have to have the promotion put their muscle behind you. UFC rolled the dice and put Lesnar in a co-main against Frank Mir in his first fight, knowing he'd bring his wrestling audience along and hoping to keep them afterwards. Likewise, you got a clue what the UFC thought of Conor when he got a special ring entrance for his undercard fight in Boston last summer. Then they went all out with McGregor in Dublin last week.
Then you have to prove you can get it done in the cage. Lesnar had the controversial loss to Mir, then he put a whuppin' on a solid vet in Heath Herring. McGregor is 3-0 in the UFC, and will have his biggest test coming up in Poirier in September.
You also have to catch a break or two along the way: The UFC matched up Lesnar with Couture, who was 45 and had been out of action for 16 months, when the two met at UFC 91. For that matter, Jon Jones got a break, too, when he got the title shot at Shogun Rua as a fill-in, right after beating Ryan Bader. Anyway, by the time he beat Couture, Lesnar was a star, and UFC 100 made him into a megastar. (Then things went sour, but that's for another time).
So in sum, you need the promotion to give you the opportunity to really run with the ball; you need the ability to interest people in your fights with your personality; you need to back up your hype in the cage; you need to catch a break here and there, and if it all works out, you break through to the masses. Lesnar had it all come together. McGregor is still a long way from there, but he's clear several of the initial hurdles, and the fact he seems to have that breakout potential is what makes his chase such a compulsive watch.
@TheWarehouse27: Is there anyway to ever take Chael Sonnen seriously again?
Stranger things have happened in this business. You know what one of them is? The fact that Victor Conte, the convicted felon who helped Barry Bonds cheat his way to one of sports' most cherished records, is taken seriously in some circles as an anti-doping activist. But let's take that notion at face value for a moment. Let's say Conte really has changed and is really sincere about wanting to make a difference. If you're a reporter who quotes Conte as a credible source in your work, why wouldn't you afford Sonnen the same opportunity? Conte had to start somewhere, and for that matter, the guy who was the real-life inspiration for the movie Catch Me If You Can ended up working for the Feds after his career as a con man. I don't see how Sonnen working for NAC (and for the 19,593rd time, it's "NAC," not "NSAC," and that's been confirmed with both Marc Ratner and Keith Kizer, who both ran the place), is any different. Sonnen's suspension is just, but give the guy his chance to make amends.
As for Belfort, while we're at it, we basically got, right there out in the open on Fight Pass, a look at the ugly side of how the sausage is made, so to speak. Sonnen is on the other side of his career and won't be producing the state of Nevada any more $5 million gates and all the attendant business (hotel rooms, meals, booze, etc.) that go with a big event. Belfort will. So the commissioners were all too happy to use the technicality that Belfort wasn't licensed when he took his last drug test to go ahead and re-license him. The UFC, meanwhile, is taking the gamble that beating Belfort would be the final step in making Chris Weidman a breakthrough star, on the heels of wins over Silva and Lyoto Machida. Whatever heat the UFC might get from the decision would more or less blow over by the time Weidman presumably pummels Belfort (If he gets that far), hell, it's a few days later and things have already blown over, at least until Belfort takes his next drug test.