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Screw it: A 165-pound title bout between Nate Diaz and Dustin Poirier would be momentous

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UFC 202 Photos Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Though it was accomplished for a few tawdry giggles, that one time Nate Diaz smacked Dana White just outside the Turf Motel in California served as a kind of iconic moment in MMA. A million fighters wished they’d found that same cheek with their own hands, and a million more were ready to make it a kind of YouTube tradition. Needless to say, White took the slap like a champ, because he knows exactly how smackable his face actually is. That’s why he made sure he was a playable fighter in the latest EA Sports UFC 3 game.

So that people could vent.

A couple of years later, Diaz is scheduled to fight Dustin Poirier at UFC 230, a fight game attraction if there ever was one. Diaz hasn’t fought since UFC 202, where he and Conor McGregor broke the all-time pay-per-view record at 1.6 million buys. His return is what people like to call “highly anticipated.” And right now that fight is slated to take place at lightweight on the pay-per-view portion of the card, not as the main event, even though the UFC is scrambling to find a headliner worthy of Madison Square Garden’s grandeur. For his part, Diaz has been lobbying for that top spot by spicing up the stakes.

He wants the UFC to introduce a 165-pound weight class, and to make his fight with Poirier — already a worthy contender at lightweight, having gone unbeaten in his last five fights — for the inaugural title. Presto, instant magnitude, and it checks all the boxes for that Big Something. The idea is more like a perfectly timed epiphany, really. The UFC needs a chandelier for the big Manhattan gala, and Diaz is saying why not go with a grittier theme — something a little more street, like giant graffiti on 31st and 8th that says in fat balloon letters, “F*ck All That.”

It’s actually kind of brilliant.

Diaz is essentially slapping Dana White from afar this time, as if to knock a little sense into him. He’s generating an uproar by giving life to the idea, and Poirier is right there to egg things along. “The Diamond” wants to make that fight for the wolfweight title, too. Or currentweight. Or super-lightweight. Whatever the new class is called, the reasoning is pretty basic: Why wouldn’t the UFC capitalize on a moment to introduce a division — a division that many believe is needed to bridge the big gap between lightweight and welterweight, anyway — and let him work his magic as a draw?

Or at least prove that he is, indeed, a draw?

The vision of Jon Jones coming back just in time to headline MSG has proven impossible. So why not go with Diaz’s “devision?” Of all the ideas of introducing segue belts (Colby) and interim belts (Ferguson) and of stripping dual champions (McGregor) to free up refugee belts (Nurmagomedov) and belts on the lam (Whittaker) and belts being hijacked (de Randamie) and belts that don’t fit properly around waists (Nicco), Diaz’s isn’t the worst idea. If he beats Poirier, the trilogy fight with McGregor manifests itself into a gargantuan affair.

This is pretty light lifting. Imagine Diaz as the 165-pound champion, and McGregor coming for an unprecedented third title. All merit can sink into a hole, for all the UFC cares. McGregor can lose to Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229, and it wouldn’t matter to the trilogy with Diaz. And if it’s Poirier who gets the new title, so be it. That’s a rematch for McGregor, too. Poirier has earned his spot as a most intriguing co-star.

But putting all that aside, the small-view reason introducing the 165-pound title at MSG could work is that the principals are all but guaranteed to put on a show. Judging from Diaz’s performances against McGregor, and the added motivation of fighting for a title, it’s a virtual lock that we get the taunting, mean-mugging, volume-striking version of Stockton’s finest. And Poirier is incapable of a dull fight, especially when there are A) pay-per-view points to be had, and B) an accommodating party like Eddie Alvarez or Justin Gaethje.

Or Nate Diaz.

The fight could double as a monument to a new division that will inevitably happen at some point anyway. How many fighters would migrate from 155 and from 170 — which presumably would become 175 — to the friendly confines of 165? Here’s guessing plenty. It wouldn’t be a novelty division, like women’s featherweight. It would be stacked.

Would Diaz be a tyranny if he won the belt, growing increasingly difficult to work with and unwilling to fight on any terms other than his own? Oh, for sure! But that’s also part of the fun. MMA isn’t solely about the fights, anymore, it’s who makes who squirm. Dana should welcome the chance to see how far Diaz’s star power extends. If there aren’t any aces up his sleeve for UFC 230 — and as of early Friday, Sept. 28, there doesn’t seem to be — make Diaz-Poirier for the 165-pound title, and turn the Octagon into a bonfire on Nov. 3. That would get some people talking.

Anything less would be a slap in the face.