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Fightweets: Why Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier is win-win for both

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Daniel Cormier faces Stipe Miocic in a champion vs. champion superfight at UFC 226.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

A UFC on FOX card which seems to exist to test just how little name value the company can put on network television and still draw a rating is on tap for this weekend. But before we got there, the UFC announced Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier. And we also got the latest in the Conor McGregor sweepstakes, with Nate Diaz announcing he’s back. So let’s jump into the latest edition of Fightweets, then, shall we?

Miocic vs. DC

@yinzjeetjet: Assuming D.C. Doesn’t go up to heavyweight, what is the fight to make for the light heavyweight belt?

So that was how the question read when it was asked Friday morning, and Friday afternoon I answered it. Then, about five minutes after I put this piece into our content engine, the UFC, harnessing all the brain power of the world’s foremost Hollywood agency, decided to release the news of Cormier going up in weight to fight Miocic on July 7 during their Friday afternoon FS1 weigh-in show, rather than on primetime network television on Saturday night in front of infinitely more viewers. But I digress.

Cormier’s initial take last Saturday night, after he defeated Volkan Oezdemir at UFC 220 to retain the light heavyweight title, was that he wasn’t interested in fighting heavyweights any more.

Something obviously changed between then and Friday, and no doubt DC will let us know, but this fight makes sense on multiple levels. For one, let’s not forget that Cormier was 13-0 at heavyweight and won the Strikeforce Grand Prix tournament. He went down to light heavyweight out of deference to Cain Velasquez. And at 38 going on 39, his weight cuts over the past year or so have gotten tougher and tougher.

Cormier has stated that this is his final year in the sport. A fight with Miocic is an opportunity to put an exclamation point on his legacy and put that unpleasantness with Jon Jones even further in his rear-view mirror. We’re already starting to see the indications that the fans are finally starting to appreciate what we have in DC. Joining the short list of two-division UFC champions should finally silence all but the most obtuse haters once and for all.

This fight should also do wonders for Miocic. Look, Miocic is never going to be a McGregor-level star. But there’s no reason he can’t grow into that elusive “middle-class” draw, the class between the A-list and the “putting on a PPV just to put on a PPV” headliners, which the company badly needs. Putting Miocic on TUF, playing off the camera-friendly Cormier, should help Miocic grow his fan base. Miocic has an undeniably quirky, funny personality that doesn’t often show up in interviews, but the TUF cameras should be able to show off this other side of him. If nothing else, from here, it can’t be said the UFC isn’t attempting to market their heavyweight champ.

So this is pretty much win-win all around. Except, for, you know, the heavyweight and light heavyweight contenders. Sorry to break it to the sanctimonious “and on the eighth day, God created weight classes” crowd, but you and I both know that before this fight was announced, nobody was pining to see any title fight next in either division. This does, however, make it incumbent upon the UFC to build someone up for the next shots in each division, even if it is as simple as getting Fabricio Werdum and Alexander Gustafsson each another win to make giving them another shot more palatable.

What’s next for Nate?

@jorgerabelo: Should we believe Nate Diaz really wants to come back and fight someone who is not Conor McGregor? I love the idea of Nate x Eddie Alvarez. UFC should be competent enough to sell this fight and make it big.

Nate Diaz sure picked the right time to come out of the woodwork, didn’t he?

Last week, the UFC set in motion a plan to move forward with the lightweight title picture, one that may or may not ultimately include Conor McGregor. Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov will meet at UFC 223. The winner of that fight is a logical landing point for McGregor’s long-awaited return to the cage. Regardless of the semantics of who is holding which title belt (which we’ll get into a bit in the next question), McGregor represents far and away the biggest payday for the winner of the Fergy-Nurmy clash (you know, if it actually happens this time).

But McGregor is bigger than any title belt at this point. Maybe the UFC goes ahead and strips him of the lightweight title. Maybe he voluntarily relinquishes it. In its own way, pulling the belt from McGregor might actually be the worst thing that could happen to Ferguson or Nurmagomedov at this point, because, guess what? Shedding himself of any title obligations or expectations would free McGregor to get straight ahead to a trilogy fight at welterweight with Diaz, which would be a bigger payday for McGregor than fighting the lightweight champ.

Which is why Diaz re-inserting himself into the equation this week was a solid move. Nate is no doubt one of the most popular fighters in the UFC. But he’s yet to prove he’s a McGregor/Rousey-level draw without actually having his name on the bill alongside McGregor.

The fact that Diaz apparently turned down an Eddie Alvarez fight, much to Alvarez’s profane displeasure, seems to indicate that Diaz understands this. A fight with Alvarez, in addition to being flat-out awesome, would be one of the biggest fights of the year. But it would also only be worth a fraction of the money Diaz can make against McGregor.

And by announcing this week that he’s ready for a fight, Diaz put Ferguson, Nurmagomedov, and the UFC on notice that they better not be counting their McGregor payday money just yet.

What’s the deal with the lightweight belt?

@n_welsch: What do you think about Dana who wasn’t clear enough about McGregor’s belt?

So, I basically answered this one already in the reaction video I did with Ariel Helwani in Boston last week after the UFC 222/223 press conference, but it bears repeating: My gut feeling, which hasn’t changed, is that White and McGregor aren’t all that far off on coming to some sort of deal on whatever’s coming up next, and his bizarre way of handing the status of the lightweight belt at the presser was an indication to McGregor that he can go either way with this. Saying Ferguson and Nurmagomedov were fighting for the real title while also saying McGregor wasn’t stripped, nonsensical though it may be, buys White time to figure out McGregor’s next move, and gives him plenty of time to formally strip McGregor of the belt if it comes to that.

Or they could get McGregor to agree to fight the Fergy-Nurmy winner still billed as champ, in a unification fight, and really, what are Ferguson and Nurmagomedov going to do if that’s how things pan out? Skip the fight? That’s not to say any of this is right. But, guess what? Whether the UFC can get anything near what they want in their next TV deal is going to in large part come down to whether they can build the buzz of a huge McGregor fight to prove they haven’t lost their fastball. Matters of right and wrong aren’t going to get in the way of that.

Best of all-time!!!

@johnliddell1982: After every card why do journalists have to declare a fighter a. best ever in the weight class b. best of all time Happened to Jones, Stipe, DJ, GSP in the last 12 months. More examples that I can’t recall from the top of my head. Shouldn’t we wait until their career is over??

Well, hold on a sec, there. Let’s take a look at each of those individual cases you cite. 1) Jon Jones’ place in history was considered because, in the immediate aftermath of what was then a TKO win over Cormier at UFC 214, the focus was on Jones’ in-ring record for the first time in awhile. Which, as we so often forget, consists of him never legitimately losing a fight to anyone, ever. That was a pretty solid time to revisit the topic. Then Jones went ahead and ruined things for himself, as always, by screwing up and failing his drug test, but we didn’t know that in the moment. 2) Miocic had his third successful UFC heavyweight title defense. That was something no one had ever accomplished in a belt whose lineage traces back to 1995. 3) Georges St-Pierre, you know, came back after a four-year hiatus, after he voluntarily relinquished his title without losing it, and became just the fourth fighter ever to hold UFC belts in two different weight classes. 4) Demetrious Johnson bested Anderson Silva’s title defense record, the one MMA record which seems to carry more weight than all the rest.

Yeah, sometimes we do get carried away in calling something or another the best this or that. And if tomorrow, we all rush to declare the winner of Derek Brunson vs. Jacare Souza the middleweight GOAT, you might have a point. But we legitimately saw a run of historic accomplishments over the past six months, so why shouldn’t we call them what they are?

Pico power

@sigep422wesg: Do you think @AaronPicoUSA is the next big breakout star?? How awesome would that be for @ScottCoker & @BellatorMMA ??

I mean, did you see his one-punch knockout of Justin Linn back in September? And his body-shot knockout of Aaron Krutchen last weekend? Yes, Aaron Pico could finally be the homegrown breakout star Scott Coker’s Bellator has yet to produce, and yes, he’s set a world record for the speed with which he was put on a pedestal, knocked off it, and then rushed right back on to it.