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Hot Tweets: Nick Diaz’s possible return and how things have changed in MMA over the past 15 years

MMA: SEP 25 UFC 266
Nick Diaz
Photo by Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Sup, hooligans!

We’re back for another edition of Hot Tweets, and this one falls on the rare off weekend in MMA (yes, KSW is happening and yes, KSW is generally one of the most fun shows to watch, but so few people in North America actually do watch that this feels like an off weekend), which means we can answer anything y’alls hearts desire. This week, it turns out, that means a lot of Nick Diaz questions. Apparently, it’s 2010 again.

Pitter, patter!

Nick Diaz and a 2022 title shot

ICYMI: Nick Diaz revealed he’s targeting a return to the cage in 2022 and has Kamaru Usman in mind.

HAHAHAHAHA! You must be new here. Welcoming to your first day in MMA, Zak. We need more people like you. Bright-eyed and bushy tailed, full of hope and optimism, not yet beaten down by the harsh realities of this meat grinder. Oh, to be young again and believe that the UFC will adhere to any form of meritocracy in lieu of chasing the almighty dollar. Look, I’m not saying Nick Diaz is going to get a welterweight title shot, but I’m not not saying that either.

I’ve said it many times before, but no one gives two toots about Leon Edwards getting a title shot. It’s truly remarkable how little people care. Even Jon Fitch — boring, tedious Jon Fitch — had people clamoring for him to get a crack at GSP after he strung together eight wins. But the only people doing so for Leon right now are, I assume, direct family members. The man simply doesn’t compel people. But you know who does? Nick Diaz. Despite the fact that he hasn’t won a fight in over a decade, or that he took six years off and didn’t look great when he came back, people still love the man. It’s why, on this down week of MMA, I got a ton of questions about him. For whatever reason, people care. And for the UFC, and especially for Kamaru Usman, that matters more than merit.

Very seriously, if Usman does defend his title in a rematch with Edwards, that will probably do 400,000 pay-per-view buys — a respectable number indicative of the top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport. But if he fights Nick Diaz, he’s pulling 750,000 at least. Sure, some people will wring their hands about how this is a blatant miscarriage of justice, but far worse things happen on a near daily basis in this sport, and we all just keep moving. There’s always another event, another controversy, another thing to focus on. And when Usman and the UFC are counting the extra millions made from all the extra people who tuned in, they certainly won’t care.

The reality is, the biggest blocker to a Diaz title shot is probably Nick’s willingness to fight, not the UFC’s willingness to allow it. Diaz has said he wants to fight again every few months for the past seven years, and he’s only actually done it once (something I’m still shocked happened). I will believe Diaz is truly going to fight again once the cage door closes, and not a moment before. But to think that if he does fight again the UFC wouldn’t entertain the idea of a title shot, well, you haven’t been paying attention.

Nick Diaz’s next fight

First, I’d like to refer above to my belief that Diaz will not be coming back until such time as he actually is back in the cage. But in this fantasy world where Diaz does fight again, in my opinion, the best fight for him would be — and I mean this seriously — Michael Bisping.

Now, there are about 500 different hoops we have to jump through to make this happen. But honestly, this is the fight that makes the most sense. Both guys are big names, both are far beyond their best years, there are legitimate paths to victory for either man, and the mic work would be tremendous.

Yes, Bisping would have to come out of retirement, and yes, he has one eyeball, but if the UFC came to him with that fight, he’s un-retiring for it, and there’s always some commission who simply doesn’t care and would license him (Texas comes to mind). I think that’s the best possible fight to make for Diaz, one that won’t see him or Bisping get too brutalized but that would still be compelling in multiple respects.

Or if you’re not into that, Demian Maia. He wants one more fight before he retires, and they can jiu-jitsu each other. That’s a fine consolation prize.

Nick Diaz vs. Chris Weidman

I have no idea why this fight came to mind for you, but the answer is Chris Weidman. The answer has always been Chris Weidman. The answer will always be Chris Weidman. At any point in their respective careers, had Diaz and Weidman matched up, Weidman would have won. That fight would look almost the same as Georges St-Pierre vs. Diaz, only Weidman is bigger and stronger. Even now, coming off a horrifying shattered leg and a terrible string of fights, it’s not like Nick is going to one-shot Weidman on the feet. We’re talking one-way traffic from start to finish.

Valentina Shevchenko

The flyweight champion is making waves about getting another crack at the bantamweight strap this year and, frankly, after she dispatches Taila Santos at UFC 275, that’s probably what’s next for her. So as for my most wanted Shevchenko matches it goes like this.

  1. Winner of Julianna Peña vs. Amanda Nunes. Had Nunes beaten Peña, Nunes-Shevchenko 3 would far and away be the answer. Now, as it stands, Shevchenko getting her second belt is really the thing I want to see. I favor her to beat either woman and regardless, after she beats Santos, Shevchenko will have cleaned the division out. She deserves this chance to make history.
  2. Miesha Tate. If Tate beats Lauren Murphy, this is probably going to happen and that’s good. Tate is a huge name in the sport and one of the few women of merit near her weight-wise that Shevchenko hasn’t fought. The Shevy Truck runs her over, but it’s still a good fight.
  3. Cris Cyborg. It will never happen and that’s a shame, but I wish it would. Both women can fight in all phases and are athletic wonders. Cyborg is bigger, but a little more shop-worn, more powerful, but less skilled (I think). It would be dope as all hell. And given how little chance I give any other woman on the planet of stopping the Bullet Train, this would be a far more compelling fight to me than Manon Fiorot (who is great, but has as much of a chance of beating Shevchenko as Lauren Murphy did).

Bellator MMA

I wish I could, but they refuse to listen. My great hope is that next month, when the PFL comes to Atlanta, I’ll be able to convince them of some of my better ideas. Bellator, though, they may be a lost cause.

Dustin Poirier

More like “Dusty” Poirier, because he’s on the shelf for so long, amirite?!

I’m sorry.

Anyways, it’s not Dustin’s fault. In situations where the question is, “Who is doing the bad thing, Fighter X or the UFC?” Nine times out of 10, the answer is the UFC. Poirier has done all he can do. He’s accepted multiple fights that have been offered to him (assuming he’s telling the truth, and there’s no reason to believe he’s lying) and even said he was willing to fight Colby Covington, a man he point blank said he didn’t want to fight, so long as the UFC would put him back in play. And still, he’s not competing this summer.

It’s genuinely mind-boggling why the UFC is willingly shelving one of their bigger commodities. I’m sure they have their reasons, but I’m equally as sure that those reasons are stupid. Poirier is an exciting fighter, a huge name, and he wants to fight. In the words of Lt. Aldo Raine, “Oblige him!”

Having Fun

Personally, I’ve never been a huge fan of the idea. Other organizations have done it (ONE Championship does it frequently), but it always falls flat for me, largely because if I wanted to watch kickboxing fights, I’d just watch actual kickboxers do their thing instead of watching Contender Series randos get their Remy Bonjasky on. That being said, I strongly believe the UFC should have more fun with their promotion, and do other things like the “BMF” belt.

What the BMF belt should have revealed to the UFC is that you don’t have to live in this hyper-structured world where titles are the only thing that matters and everything is a funnel to the belt. You can have that, and that’s cool, but you can also just do cool s***. Like, it makes zero sense to me why they don’t do one or two grand prix every year with non-ranked fighters. Instead of doing a bantamweight GP that takes up the top 10 of the division for a year like Bellator does, do one with some underpromoted prospects. It would help build stars by providing a clear narrative, and the winner can get a trophy and a car or something. It’s the simplest possible way to add stakes to fights that are otherwise forgettable. Plus, the winner can forever be the 2022 Lightweight Grand Prix Champion, or whatever. There is zero downside, but the UFC hasn’t done it.

The biggest example of this sort of promotional constipation is the MVF title that never was. When Justin Gaethje and Eddie Alvarez fought for the fake title of “Most Violent Fighter,” a promotion worth even half its salt would have immediately made a crown of thorns trophy to award the winner. It would have been so sick, this unique, badass thing that elevated the fight. There are a near endless number of ways to do things like that, and the UFC has zero interest in doing them, and that sucks.

The State of MMA

For context, I’ve been an MMA fan for nearly 20 years now. I remember some kid in school showing me the Randleplex, and I thought it was the single coolest thing I’d ever seen (and still is aside from the Grand Canyon — holy s*** that place is something else) and that was the start. I found the Sherdog forums, got sucked into that whole world, and I’ve been here ever since. So my fandom started a little before The Ultimate Fighter and the UFC becoming a mainstream success, and I have to say, things are INFINITELY better today than they were back then.

Fights today are almost exclusively better than they were in the mid-2000s, because fighters are much better. Sure, you’ll still get a dud every once in awhile (here’s looking at you Carla Esparza and Rose Namajunas) but on balance, the average undercard scrap at a Fight Night, relevant or not, is still substantially better to watch than some of the main card stuff we used to get. And that’s another key factor, we get the undercards now! There was a time not that long ago when you just straight up didn’t get to see undercard fights unless you went to the event, or the main card was moving so quickly that they showed a stoppage from the prelims. Now, I can watch basically any fight that has ever happened. I would have given myself paper cuts under the fingernails to have that sort of access in 2005 (hell, I even remember when you could watch prelims on Facebook and that was a huge deal. Damn, I’m old.)

It’s not just the quality and availability of the sport that is so great now, though. Very seriously, the fact that, at least broadly, people respect MMA is so phenomenal, and those of you who aren’t old-as-dirt fans can’t really fathom it. Even though it was largely the same sport we have today, MMA was viewed as a very low class thing, watched and practiced only by degenerates and psychos. It’s why basically every UFC event for a decade had Joe Rogan essentially making the case for why this wasn’t human cockfighting. Having the sport stand on its own merits and no longer having to justify itself every event, that’s damn near priceless.

As for the things I hate in comparison to “the good old days,” they’re small in comparison. My biggest gripe is that it’s hard to be a hardcore fan with as many events as there are. It’s trivial, I know, but there are legitimately people who have five fights in the UFC who I couldn’t pick out of a crowd of two. And I’ve literally seen every single UFC event ever! But with the sheer volume they produce, the monochromatic nature of their production (uniforms), and the UFC’s lack of interest in promoting anything other than the biggest events they have, it all bleeds together. Again, in comparison, this is a minute issue though.

Personally, I consider myself extremely lucky to have the job that I do. I wake up every day and talk about fights for a living. If you told me I would be doing that back in 2005, I would not have believed you. MMA wasn’t going to be a big thing back then, it was this niche little sport for internet weirdos, and it was constantly on the verge of collapse. But 17 years later, it’s a global juggernaut. It still has huge issues that need to be addressed (fighter pay, health care, judging, etc) but as a whole, the sport has come so far that it still sort of blows my mind. Here’s to another 17 years.

Thanks for reading and thank you for everyone who sent in Tweets! Do you have any burning questions about things at least somewhat related to combat sports? Then you’re in luck, because you can send your Hot Tweets to me, @JedKMeshew, and I will answer them! Doesn’t matter if they’re topical or insane. Send them to me and I’ll answer the ones I like the most. Let’s have fun.

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