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Fightweets: You might hate Nate Diaz-Conor McGregor 2, but you know you'll watch

Esther Lin photo

Just when it seemed like we were done with the slowest news week in quite some time, along came Friday's UFC 200 bombshell: Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor 2 is in the works.

With that, it's off to the races ...

Diaz vs. McGregor, take two

@KeithMurrayLA: I haven't seen one reply that's in favor of this rematch. Just the UFC being the UFC

Without a doubt, the initial reaction to Ariel Helwani's report that Diaz vs. McGregor 2 (and that's the order in which the fighters should be listed, since, you know, Diaz won the first fight) is being lined up for UFC 200 was vehemently against the bout.

And for plenty of valid reasons, too, like the featherweight title picture, and the fact it will apparently be done at welterweight instead of lightweight, which are separate questions I'll touch upon below.

But, one thing I noticed in my Twitter timeline responses to the news of the potential fight on July 9 in Las Vegas: For all the anger being directed at the rematch, the majority of you qualified your criticism with something to the effect of "I'll watch, but ..."

Guess what? The UFC isn't looking at this past "I'll watch." The casual fans who have jumped back on board over the past couple years, climbing onto either the Ronda Rousey bandwagon or the McGregor train or both -- people who wouldn't know the intricacies of high-level footwork if Demetrious Johnson appeared in front of them, popped them a couple times, and darted out of the way before they knew what hit them -- are in it for the big, over-the-top spectacular shows the UFC has been putting on roughly quarterly over the past year or two. As long as the fights pay off, which these big McGregor/women's bantamweight fights have consistently done, they're going to keep watching.

The best argument to make Diaz-McGregor 2 is that the first one was an exciting, compelling, competitive fight, one that we might be discussing for Fight of the Year had Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit not already happened. All those extra eyeballs who make the difference between an average-sized fight and a giant one aren't going to get too hung up on whether Frankie Edgar is getting screwed. They just know the first fight was great and they usually get their money's worth if McGregor or a Diaz is involved.

UFC wanted a monster fight for UFC 200, the debut in the new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. You know the casuals will watch in hoards. The fact even the hardcores who say they hate the fight are saying "I'll watch, but .." tells me the rematch, with a full camp and full round of hype, will be even bigger than the first.

Why 170?

@auggie85: Why at welterweight? And why would McGregor want Diaz after a full camp, after what he did to him on days notice

This seems the biggest mystery surrounding this fight. At 155 pounds, Diaz-McGregor 2 would have a compelling new angle, and would seem to open a path to the winner finally meeting up with lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos. Maybe McGregor is simply stubborn, and feels he has to take on Diaz at 170 again to fully correct a wrong? Maybe McGregor, one of the most intelligent fighters we've come across, feels like he is ready to make adjustments that will keep the fight from turning the way it did last time. Maybe Diaz is insisting on 170. Those are all maybes. Until we hear from either party, or the UFC, for that matter, this is all conjecture.

What about the featherweight belt?

@jorgerabelo: Maybe they are planning Aldo-Edgar II for an interim championship or something, so both of them will be less dissatisfied?

And this brings us to the biggest, most valid criticism of the rematch: McGregor sitting on the featherweight title. We were almost unanimously okay with the title going on ice the first time around, because McGregor was originally supposed to be Conor going up to challenge RDA, the sort of historical challenge fighters rarely tackle.

Putting a championship on hold indefinitely, however, is something entirely different.

In fact, the entire division seems on hold: As of this writing, Cub Swanson, who meets Hacran Diaz at UFC on FOX 19 next month, is the only featherweight in the UFC's official top eight with a fight scheduled. Making both Edgar and Aldo wait on the champion is creating a trickle-down effect on the rest of the division. Having Edgar fight Aldo, and even making it a UFC 200 co-main event, seems like a common sense matchup. But interim titles are supposed to account for champions who are injured, not those who keep fighting out of their weight class. That would be the worst of all outcomes. If Diaz-McGregor 2 becomes official, then the only way Edgar and Aldo should fight each other is if the undisputed featherweight title is up for grabs.

The future of WSOF's Big Two

@MorganWaltzUFC: Justin Gaethje destroys another opponent in WSOF. With only 2 fights left on his contract, can we expect a UFC move in 2017?

We may as well throw bantamweight champion Marlon Moraes into this conversation as well, because the way World Series of Fighting handles Gaethje and Moraes when their contracts come due will tell a lot about the company's future.

Both Gaethje, who used ruthless leg kicks to finish Brian Foster last week at WSOF 29, and Moraes, who did the same to finish Joseph Barajas at WSOF 28, are clear-cut, Top 10 talents in their respective divisions.

Both have run through their competition in WSOF (things are so thin at 135 that they went Xplode Fighting Series product in Barajas for a challenger). They're the best pound-for-pound fighters in the company and the competitors on the roster with the most upside.

They're also making better money -- Moraes copped $80,000 to show and $80,000 to win against Barajas, and Gaethje is closing in on those numbers -- than they would be making right now if they had come up through the UFC's system.

So the questions here are twofold: One is on Moraes' and Barajas' end: How much are they worth on the open market, given WSOF events aren't as widely viewed as the UFC or Bellator, which means they don't have name recognition to match their value? And with that in mind, how much to do they value testing themselves against the best competition as opposed to making the most money they can right now?

How Gaethje and Moraes, who have both indicated they'll fight out their contracts, end up, will be a good indicator whether free agency is truly a sport-wide thing and not just for those established UFC names who might be the right fit in Bellator.

Then there's the WSOF end of the equation. The company seems to be downsizing, as was never more obvious than during WSOF 28, which was held in a youth sports recplex. When Gaethje and Moraes' contracts come up, will WSOF continue to pay out that sort of money to keep them? Or will they continue to cut costs? How the company handles their two brightest talents will determine whether WSOF stays on the radar as the No. 3 promotion behind UFC and Bellator or whether it will fall into the pack with the RFAs and Legacys of the industry.

So many rematches

@johnny_davison: Are we living in the age of the immediate rematch? Seems to be a regular occurrence/expectation these days?

Sure seems that way, particularly now that Diaz-McGregor 2 is a thing. We've already got Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones 2 (unlike in Diaz-McGregor, Cormier is defending a championship here, so he goes first), Luke Rockhold vs. Chris Weidman 2, and Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber 3 announced; we were supposed to have Fabricio Werdum vs. Cain Velasquez 2. We also seem to have Miesha Tate-Ronda Rousey 3 and Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Claudia Gadelha 2 on the horizon.

So yeah, there are more rematches than usual. But, notwithstanding Diaz-McGregor 2 for a minute, the number of rematches are also mainly a function of the most volatile championship era in UFC history continuing unabated. We've had two title changes in 2016 -- Cruz's win over T.J. Dillashaw, and Tate's win over Holly Holm. From March of last year through this March, there have been an unprecedented nine title changes.

All the currently scheduled title fights make sense on some level. Jones never lost his title in the cage and has never legitimately lost a fight, period. At middleweight, all the other viable contenders are already matched up (or in Yoel Romero's case, likely to be suspended). Cruz's most viable option besides Faber would have been another rematch in Dillashaw, so you're looking at a rematch either way.

You didn't hear this so much during the era of dominant champions, at least until you got to the point where longtime champs had to recycle challengers because they beat everyone else. The real solution for getting beyond this glut of rematches is for the slew of new champs to hang on to their belts awhile and let new challengers emerge.

New York state of mind

@Patkawesome: How important is MSG? Is all the work for MMA is New York because of the Garden?

Hey, look, I grew up in Boston and enjoy taking jabs as New York as much as anyone. It cracks me up that New Yorkers call Madison Square Garden "the" Garden when Boston Garden has four times as many championship banners hanging from the rafters as "the" Garden.

But, all kidding aside, yeah, of course MSG is of gigantic importance. Outside of Las Vegas, it's the most important combat sports facility in the country. Not only is it one of the biggest money arenas in the country, but the symbolic importance of the UFC getting into the place that hosted matchups like the Ali vs. Frazier Fight of the Century can't be overstated.

And that doesn't even get into the fact New York state boasts arenas capable of holding major events in Brooklyn, Albany, and Buffalo, and several more that can host Fight Night-level cards. While this should have happened years ago, the fact the bill will finally be heard by the Assembly, where it is expected to pass with ease, is absolutely something for MMA fans everywhere to celebrate.

(I've finally gotten around to creating a professional Facebook page. If you've been a loyal Fightweets reader over the years, do me a favor and like the page to help me get it up and running. Thanks!)

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