by Jordy McElroy
UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov already has business with Tony Ferguson, and it’s time for Jorge Masvidal to take his shot at real UFC gold by challenging welterweight champ Kamaru Usman. That leaves the most anticipated trilogy in all of combat sports as the only plausible fight on the table. Yes, the UFC needs to give us Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz.
Go ahead and roll your eyes, but it makes sense for multiple reasons.
There is no certainty Nurmagomedov will even still be champion after UFC 249. Ferguson is a dangerous contender with all of the tools to spoil a sequel. There is a reason why hardcore fans are so infatuated with the idea of the two lightweight stars finally sharing the cage together. The failed matchmaking of the bout goes further back than McGregor defeating Jose Aldo to win his first undisputed UFC title.
Masvidal’s size and adept striking abilities could potentially ruin the momentum McGregor is riding after his impressive 40-second stoppage of Donald Cerrone at UFC 246. If contending for lightweight gold truly is the end game, why throw McGregor in a fight with the No. 1 welterweight contender that could possibly take years off his career?
Fun doesn’t always mean smart.
Meanwhile, McGregor has made it clear he wants to stay active and treat the year like a season. He won’t be able to do that if he’s sitting around and collecting dust on the shelf, while waiting for Nurmagomedov or Ferguson to be ready to fight again. Mystic Mac would turn into Rip Van Winkle if he waited that long.
A bout with Diaz would offer the UFC another surefire blockbuster, while keeping McGregor active in his journey back to lightweight title contention. It would also give fans an aesthetically pleasing slugging match to pass the time. The Stockton slap vs. the straight left hand, the middle finger vs. the McGregor strut—who in their right mind wouldn’t be interested in running that back for a third time?
The seeds have already been sown with Diaz live tweeting during McGregor’s fight with Cerrone.
When asked to respond to Diaz’s comments at the UFC 246 post-fight press conference, the former champ-champ welcomed the opportunity to close out the rivalry.
“Let’s go, Nathan,” said McGregor. “Let’s go, brother. No. 3—it’s always here. So we’re right here, Nathan.”
Diaz doesn’t seem poised to make a title run anytime soon. So it would be pointless to expect him to run the gauntlet of 170-pound contenders. Why not toast a glass of Proper Twelve, throw on the four ounce gloves and embark on the money trail with McGregor for old time’s sake?
The fight world nearly lost its mind after McGregor’s flawless performance against Cerrone. Imagine the response if he was able to stop Diaz in a similarly dominant fashion. It would go a long way in selling the idea that he’s a different fighter than the one that fought Nurmagomedov the first time.
He could essentially close the book on one rivalry while attempting to renew another—a 2020 cleanup campaign of sorts for a fallen champion hell-bent on earning redemption.