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28th Sep 2017

One Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz title fight scenario is being overlooked

May not be the smartest idea

Ben Kiely

A Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz title fight to complete the trilogy is justifiable.

That December 30 show seems to be slipping away with each passing day, but all signs are pointing to Conor McGregor fighting arch-rival Nate Diaz next.

It is the biggest money fight the UFC currently have at their disposal and stylistically, it promises to be an intriguing contest. The first two fights being classics are a testament to this fact.

Diaz beat down, submitted and humiliated McGregor at UFC 196 and ‘the Notorious’ edged a five-round war in the rematch to tie the series. Unless they settle the score behind closed doors a la Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed, the rubber match needs to happen.

All parties seem to have their gaze firmly focused on completing the trilogy. There are the obvious financial incentives for the UFC, with the third fight guaranteed to do over 1.5 million PPV buys and could potentially break the promotion’s record.

Diaz was the only person McGregor mentioned specifically by name when asked about what his plans were after the media circus for ‘the Money Fight.’

The Stockton native appears to only have eyes for the Dubliner too. He hasn’t been seen inside the Octagon since dropping that majority decision at UFC 202, but he was seen backstage at the T-Mobile Arena congratulating Floyd Mayweather on a job well done and arguing with Brendan Schaub’s assessment of McGregor’s performance in his professional boxing debut.

The interim lightweight title set to be contested by Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee at UFC 216 means that the division will move along nicely in McGregor’s absence. There is a shiny golden carrot being dangled to motivate the elite contenders while McGregor looks to take a fight against an opponent outside the top 5.

Everything is falling into place perfectly to allow McGregor and Diaz to go at it again, but one has to wonder what weight the third fight will be set at.

Diaz stepped in for Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 196 on 12 days notice. He was doing shots of tequila on a yacht in Cabo when he got the call, so rather than set the unrealistic task of cutting to 155 lb, both fighters agreed to a welterweight bout. McGregor didn’t want an asterisk beside the rematch, so he requested that the rematch would also be set at 170 lbs.

Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz title

This time around, McGregor has made it clear that he wants the third to be at 155 lbs, meaning Diaz will skip the most populated queue in the UFC to earn a title shot. Some people may take issue with a fighter who is so inactive receiving a crack at the title, but it’s hardly the worst match-making we’ve ever seen and we’ll probably see even worse again.

Diaz is currently ranked sixth and has a captivating rivalry with McGregor. It’s not really comparable to a retiring Dan Henderson ranked outside the top 10 fighting Michael Bisping for the middleweight strap or eighth-ranked Chris Cariaso fighting flyweight king Demetrious Johnson at UFC 178.

However, if McGregor vs Diaz III is for the lightweight championship, everyone has to accept the outcome of the fight closing this chapter for time being. No matter how lucrative or appealing it may be, doing the fourth fight straight away would be a serious misstep, even if Diaz manages to usurp the throne.

Undoubtedly, the biggest superstar the sport has ever seen would aggressively push for another crack at Diaz if he lost to him again, but if they grant him that wish, rationalising that move to the hungry pack of 155 lbers would be tricky.

If the negotiations go to plan and this red panty night gets booked as a title fight, the victor must surely accept that they only have two options next – a unification bout next against the interim champion or relinquishing the belt to pursue another opportunity.

McGregor doesn’t need to put his belt on the line to sell this fight, Diaz doesn’t need to fight for the belt to make another staggering payday and this will still likely be the biggest fight in UFC history even if was a catchweight 160 lb fight with no title implications.

Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz title

With so many monsters at lightweight in the top 20, this division doesn’t deserve to be held up any longer. These warriors need something to fight for. Those 12 pounds of gold have to be a viable goal.

As Daniel Cormier said, it’s so much more financially beneficial being a UFC champion, so why deny elite contenders that opportunity to allow fighters who don’t really need it compete for champion status?

But anyway, we’ll cross that bridge if we ever come to it. It’s just something worth keeping in mind when title fights such as these get booked.