Nate Diaz may well have proved the extent of his newfound understanding of the fight-business with his callout of Jorge Masvidal at UFC 241.
Taking to the mic directly after beating Anthony Pettis over three-rounds, he made the callout that would perhaps ignite fan interest more than any matchup out there with the exception of a trilogy bout with Conor McGregor.
“With this belt, I want to defend it against – Jorge Masvidal had a good last fight. Good last fight. All respect to the man, but there ain’t no gangsters in this game anymore.
“There ain’t nobody who does it right but me and him.
“So I know my man’s a gangster, but he ain’t no West Coast gangster.”
Who could have blamed Nate had he followed up his triumphant return with a profanity-laced tirade aimed in the direction of the increasingly reclusive McGregor? It sure was a move that has served him well in the past.
What we’re seeing here, though, is a business-savvy decision that was infinitely more subtle than most people realise.
Nate is, in many ways, an even greater rebellious presence within the UFC than his rival McGregor.
Where Conor’s eternal power struggle with the UFC is essentially a multi-layered form of negotiation that only really shows its surface level to us, Nate will quite literally take his toys and go home if he feels he is not getting the respect he deserves.
Still, though, Diaz finally does appear to be playing ball to a greater extent than before and with White now understanding how useful an asset the Stockton brawler can be, do not be surprised to see this fight signed before too long because as things stand – you’d be hard-pressed to find two more in demand fighters in the UFC than these two.
Each man simultaneously embodies characteristics commonly associated with both heels and heroes, melding that together with a no-bulls**t attitude that love or hate them, makes them come across as undeniably genuine.
It’s the type of fight that many will be torn over. A pair of fan-favourites who will have absolutely no intention of backing up from the moment the opening bell rings until the fight is over.
And make no mistake, these guys will elevate each other’s status as a result of this bout’s very existence.
Dana sure seemed interested in making the fight directly after hearing Nate’s callout – despite his usual stance as a man who will not make even minor matchmaking commitments directly after fight-night, telling the media the following:
“I mean, who wouldn’t want to see that fight? I think everyone would want to see that fight.
“I don’t know, we’ll wait to see how everything plays out.”
The only potential roadblock is perhaps the most volatile, unpredictable and in this case, interesting piece in the entire puzzle.
Both Diaz and Masvidal have had pretty considerable ties to a showdown with Conor McGregor in the recent past and if I had to guess, I would imagine that he’s far from happy after seeing two of the prospective opponents for his comeback cosying up.
And to be honest, that just makes Nate’s decision to call out Gamebred that bit cleverer.
According to Dana, McGregor was furious with him after his public declaration to TMZ that Jorge was ‘too big’ for him.
“Masvidal is too big for Conor. Yeah, but he shouldn’t have [fought Nate Diaz at welterweight]. I hated that he did it. Not only did I hate that he did it once, I hated that he did it twice.
“He doesn’t belong at that weight. No. There’s plenty of fights for him in his weight division without Conor. He’s too big for Conor, Conor doesn’t belong at 170.
“He’s got the balls to fight at 170 but he doesn’t belong there. Hell no.”
Former UFC two-time middleweight title-challenger Chael Sonnen had the very interesting theory that White was baiting McGregor into taking what could have been (and still could be) a very lucrative matchup against Jorge with those comments.
By beating everyone to the punch and putting himself in pole position to fight Masvidal, Diaz has effectively ensured that one way or another his next fight is going to be a huge one because like it or not, Conor is returning to the octagon either later this year or early next year.
The danger that two of the best fights out there for him are slipping out of the realms of possibility could well light a fire under his belly because if there’s one thing we know about the Irishman, it’s that his greatest moments of frustration have come when he feels powerless.
From Mayweather’s command for his team to ‘form Voltron’ to the now-infamous bus attack where Khabib stayed on the bus, it’s clear that Conor’s only real times of desperation arise when he’s not in control and call me crazy, but Nate – who has more experience with him than most – could well be tapping into this expertly.
Again, calling out Conor was the expected move to make – the one that most people could have seen from a mile away had Diaz stayed to the script.
There’s no way he doesn’t want that fight, of course. Who wouldn’t like the opportunity to run it back with an out-of-practice superstar that history has proven you can actually get the better of?
All things considered, Masvidal is actually the much more dangerous and less lucrative option of the two and yet, in his big moment on the mic, Nate made the decision to go against the grain.
Call it the rebellious move or a moment of him genuinely not giving a sh*t, but if you ask me, Diaz, perhaps even unknowingly, made the best possible play in the book by indirectly omitting Conor from his post-fight speech and now, he has well and truly set himself up for one helluva time back in the spotlight.