March 25, 2016

UFC 200: Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz 2 is Lazy But Understandable Booking

By Raphael Garcia

When discussing mixed martial arts matchmaking, the entertainment aspect of the sport continues to be elephant in the room. Rumors are swirling that the UFC is close to booking a Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz rematch as a featured bout at UFC 200. Ariel Helwani of MMA Fighting was the first to report the story. Even though the match isn’t official, when the story broke, the immediate response was negative, but the decision is understandable.

UFC 196 was clearly one of the biggest events in UFC history, and certainly the largest payday for both men. UFC President Dana White announced during the post-fight press conference that the event brought in a live gate of $8.1 million and was projected to be one of the most purchased pay-per-view events ever for the Zuffa-owned promotion. Figures such as those show that the pairing of these two competitors attracted the kind of attention that converts into dollars. But what are the long-term consequences of remaking this fight?

There are both positive and negative outcomes to a Diaz-McGregor II booking:

The first casualties of this rematch would be Frankie Edgar and the UFC Featherweight Championship. Edgar is the man that many want to see face McGregor next, by virtue of being the top contender at 145 pounds. The New Jersey native is currently dealing with an injury that’s kept him out of training for an extended period of time. Although he hasn’t confirmed whether he’d be available for the bout at UFC 200, the consensus among fans and pundits is that Edgar should get to fight at the milestone event.

However, developments this week have created another opportunity that Edgar could greatly benefit from. With the news that MMA has been legalized in New York, Edgar’s name is now being thrown around as a potential headliner at Madison Square Garden against McGregor. While it’s hard to plan for an event this far in the future, one could see Edgar headlining such a major event in an area that could be considered his backyard. Main eventing the UFC’s first-ever event in NYC would provide Edgar with an opportunity to receive the financial benefits and exposure that he’s long deserved.

For Diaz and McGregor, obviously they would have the opportunity to fully flex their promotional muscles and fight for some of the largest checks ever seen in mixed martial arts. Fighting at 170 pounds would give them an additional fight in a weight class that’s devoid of attractive challengers for the current welterweight champion, Robbie Lawler. While rebooking this fight may “hold up” the featherweight division, it could create an opportunity at welterweight.

With a victory, McGregor would regain some of the momentum that was lost when he tapped to Diaz with the world watching. A second victory for Diaz elevates him to a spot that’s even higher than his brother Nick. White famously quipped that Diaz isn’t a “needle mover,” but another win could make him one of the biggest names that the promotion has to offer.

If this planned fight between McGregor and Diaz happens, there are important implications for a number of parties. Frankie Edgar could once again find himself shuffled to the sidelines for reasons outside of his control (though he could end up in an important and historic fight of a different sort.) Diaz and McGregor would again fight outside of their natural weight classes, again proving that ratings matter more than rankings to the UFC, who continues to work hard to build up fighters that people outside the sport’s core audience will pay to see. With a little more than three months left to plan, the story of how UFC 200 comes together will be a very compelling one.


UFC 200: Tate vs. Nunes (formerly UFC 200: Cormier vs. Jones 2, UFC 200: Lesnar vs. Hunt) takes place on July 9, 2016 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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