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Fightweets: Just how big will Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz be?

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There are "ordinary" weeks in mixed martial arts, which would be considered "crazy" weeks in most other businesses. There are "crazy" weeks in MMA, in which you can't decide whether to laugh or cry about the state of the sport.

Then there are weeks like the past one, in which Kimbo Slice vs. Dada 5000 breaks company records and ends in a near-tragedy, Conor McGregor starts the week expecting a champion vs. champion fight with Rafael dos Anjos and ends it signed to a welterweight fight against Nate Diaz, and a fight the magnitude of Anderson Silva vs. Michael Bisping ends up overshadowed.

Needless to say, it's a fun week for Fightweets ...

McGregor-Diaz bigger than Mcregor-RDA?

@MorganWaltzUFC: How excited are you for this McGregor vs Diaz fight?! Does it sell more or less then McGregor vs RDA?

Back in December, when it was a three-horse race to see who was going to fight McGregor next -- Frankie Edgar, dos Anjos, and Diaz -- Diaz was the one I most wanted. So yeah, I'm pretty happy this is what we've ended up with, and judging by the reaction around the MMA world, so are a lot of people.

Coming off UFC 194 and UFC on FOX on back-to-back weekends, I acknowledged Diaz was the least consequential opponent of the three from divisional perspectives. But McGregor vs. Diaz seemed like a fight which could sell a lot and still serve a purpose, to show whether McGregor was truly ready to go up to lightweight before fighting RDA.

Of course, UFC went the McGregor-Rafael dos Anjos route, before RDA had to drop out with a foot injury, then we ended up with McGregor-Diaz after all. This is still the best "fun fight" UFC has put on since Silva vs. Forrest Griffin, with welterweight as an added layer of intrigue.

As for whether the Diaz fight will sell more than RDA: Hard to say. There's a burst of enthusiasm for McGregor-Diaz that simply wasn't there for dos Anjos. But given fight-week buildup, the champion vs. champion hook very well could have caught on.

The potential upside? If McGregor handles his business at a higher weight against Diaz, the RDA fight, should they go back to it, will be more appealing than it previously had been. Which was why I wanted the Diaz fight in the first place.

Moving the needle

@Auggie85: Is Diaz 'moving the needle' for this fight? I'm looking forward to this more than I was for RDA

Is Diaz moving the needle? The needle went off the charts and damn near broke. The UFC has been holding public events at the UFC Gym in Torrance -- the city in which Rorion Gracie more or less conceived of the UFC -- for several years, now. This has included publicity for some major fights -- like Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche, Rousey vs. Cat Zingano (with Cyborg Justino also in the house promoting an Invicta fight) and the Chris Weidman-Anderson Silva rematch.

But never has there been a mob scene like the one Wednesday, less than 24 hours after McGregor-Diaz was announced. An hour in advance, the parking lot was jammed and there was a line around the corner and down the block. Inside, people were climbing on top of unused weight benches to get a better view. ESPN aired the presser live. YouTube got 222,000 live viewers, which is a number most cable TV shows would die for. I can't speak for anyone else, but my own Twitter timeline got a level of engagement usually reserved for the biggest fight nights.

Is this all anecdotal? Yup. But do those anecdotes seem to indicate McGregor vs. Diaz is going to do monster business.

Fighting up

@hunt5588: Could this fight potentially help MMA into an era of fighters competing at healthier weights?

One would hope so. Did anyone enjoy watching a listless Josh Burkman slog through a lightweight win over K.J. Noons a few weeks back after dropping more than 20 pounds? I didn't, and it sure looked like Burkman didn't enjoy the experience in the slightest. All that effort for a victory that isn't going to move him much up the ladder. I don't mean to pick on Burkman here, his experience has been that of many fighters over the years, his example is simply the most recent.

Bellator's experiment in Kansas this week, along new weight-cutting rules in California and One FC, show that real change is finally coming. And while McGregor-Diaz is obviously a unique circumstance, any signal sent out by major promotions that they'll reward fighting at healthier weights is a good thing.

CMG vs. wrestlers, again

@Cbelcher6711: Do you think they may be protecting McGregor from wrestlers because he's the big draw?

I'd like to believe we would have buried the "Conor vs. wrestlers" meme when McGregor took Chad Mendes on two weeks' notice and won. And Frankie Edgar was an option, he would have taken the fight had he not been injured (and it wasn't a good look for the UFC in burying Edgar, who has been a gold soldier), in the aftermath.

That said ... one can't help but notice that Donald Cerrone of JacksonWink didn't get the nod. The same JacksonWink who devised the game plan in which Holly Holm destroyed the myth of Ronda Rousey's invincibility and took out one of the UFC's two big PPV stars. Draw your own conclusions.

McGregor vs. Lawler?

@Cbelcher6711: Do you really think we will see McGregor fight Robbie Lawler for the welterweight title?

I addressed this one a little while back and dismissed it out of hand. But given how things have panned out since, I'm starting to think you should never say never with McGregor.

I still think Robbie Lawler would represent McGregor finally taking things a bit too far. McGregor fighting Diaz at 170 pounds adds a level of intrigue, but let's not forget that while Diaz is an occasional welterweight who's had his best performances at lightweight, Lawler is a welterweight who has held titles at middleweight.

But, I'm not going to doubt for a second that McGregor would take the fight if offered. McGregor's dismissal of dos Anjos at Wednesday's press conference indicates the featherweight champ knows the a fight with Lawler could light up UFC 200 like nothing else currently on the agenda.

Bellator 149 and the lessons learned

@a_gon94: What lessons did this last event teach Bellator about how they should move forward with their product?

Depends on which lesson we're talking about.

Is it the one about putting a 38-year-old man with no notable professional MMA experience to speak of (before you go to the comments section to say he was 2-0, go look up the records of the guys he beat) who weighed about 310 pounds before cutting weight in a fight against a guy who, while a gimmick attraction himself, has been affiliated with one of the sport's top camps for the better part of a decade? Bellator dodged a bullet when Dada 5000 survived what from all independent accounts was a near-death experience after his loss to Kimbo. If you think last weekend was a circus, imagine what would have happened had the worst-case scenario gone down.

Is it the lesson about the need to build young stars, so you're not forever reliant on the senior citizen circuit to fuel the ratings engine? I've been barking up that tree since long before it became a trendy topic. Bellator 149 demonstrated why, in the long run, the company is going to need to build up the Michael Pages and Darrion Caldwells and so forth (and I won't even go into Will Brooks, since it seems his relationship with the company is beyond repair). The only fighter who fit the category last weekend was Roufusport's Emmanuel Sanchez, and his performance was buried by the circus which followed.

Of course, there's the other lesson that came out of Bellator 149: Kimbo still sells. Bellator 149 drew 2.5 million viewers, blowing past Kimbo's fight with Ken Shamrock last June. Viacom isn't in this to build to pay-per-view events. They want big ratings and Kimbo continues to deliver.

(Tangent: Kimbo seems to be bulletproof. The casuals who tune into his fights seem to watch because he's the exception to the rule, and will never hold him to standards they expect from other fighters. I'm willing to place money down, now, on the notion that if we give it about another nine months to a year, Bellator will be able to find the right opponent for Kimbo, sell a storyline that they don't want the Dada fight to represent how he's going out, and after all the requisite debate about whether they're going to the well once too often, it will draw another 2-million-plus pairs of eyeballs. But I digress).

Bellator isn't about to ditch the formula of using legends fights when it's drawing numbers like this. But the format needs fine-tuning. Starting with no more non-mixed martial artists on the card. What happened to Dada 5000 was a lesson Scott Coker, a student of MMA history, should have learned when former NFLer Johnnie Morton took a stretcher ride at the LA Coliseum on the K-1/Elite XC show in 2007.

And the pace of building up their roster of young talent and giving them the opportunity to become stars needs acceleration. For all Bjorn Rebney's faults, he gave the likes of Michael Chandler, Eddie Alvarez, and Brooks opportunities to make their names from the ground up. Two years into Coker's reign, there's nothing similar. It's getting to be time to do something about it.

Silva vs. Bisping

@WillDelToro: If Anderson demolishes Bisping, is he next for Rockhold/Weidman winner?

I also had someone ask me the same question, except that person had Bisping beating Silva. But it got buried under the torrent of timeline responses to the McGregor-Diaz presser, so apologies to whomever sent it.

Anyway, you know it's been a crazy week when Silva vs. Bisping, a fight I'm not alone in looking forward to seeing, is at best the third-biggest news item of the week.

And its a testament to the odd state of the middleweight division that, indeed, the winner of this fight could end up as a sellable opponent for the middleweight title. And just as valid that the loser will have to face serious talk of hanging ‘em up.

Anderson Silva or Michael Bisping challenging for the UFC middleweight title in 2016? Next you'll tell me McGregor is headlining a pay-per-view at welterweight and Kimbo broke his own ratings record by fighting a guy from a documentary. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.