MMA Ratings Podcast

August 15, 2019

UFC 241: Nate Diaz's Opportunities To Draw Big Paydays May Have Passed

By Raphael Garcia

In mixed martial arts, it’s rare for fighters to sustain a high level of fan interest over years, fight after fight; yet this is what has made the Diaz brothers so special. Nick Diaz and Nate Diaz sparingly grace fans with their presence in the cage, but over the course of their respective UFC careers, they have been cult favorites. Nate is scheduled to return to competition this weekend in the co-main event of UFC 241 opposite Anthony Pettis. But after such a long layoff, the question needs to be asked: Is Nate Diaz still capable of drawing interest for the UFC?

Back at UFC 202, Diaz earned $2 million in a losing effort to Conor McGregor. However, this was the last time he stepped into the Octagon, as since then, he and the company have been at odds around his return. At one point, it was rumored that Diaz would fight then-welterweight champion Tyron Woodley in a short notice bout, but that fight fell through due to money. These rumors were recently confirmed by Diaz in an interview with Brett Okamoto:

“That [Woodley] fight fell through because they were like, short-notice, I’m 172 pounds, 174 pounds. They were like ‘Hey, you want to fight, welterweight title in like [expletive] three weeks or something?' And I’m like, 'yeah, let’s do this, but yo, give me some – we gonna have to money up for this.' But I’m with it whenever and I showed up, too. I’m like, I’ll pop up and do my thing. And then, that’s how that fight went.”

But since Diaz’s last fight in 2016, a lot has changed for the UFC, the most important change of which was the company's partnership with ESPN for live events, including pay-per-views. This lucrative deal with ESPN now provides the UFC with guaranteed income that has removed much of the leverage that fighters had. Fighters like McGregor or Brock Lesnar no longer have the ability to hold out for larger paydays to "save" UFC shows. That means situations like the one Nate outlined in his Okamoto interview will be fewer and farther between. It’s been clear that the Diaz Brothers are mainly interested in the biggest prizes they can garner for their time in the cage, but those sized prizes may no longer be as readily available, now that the UFC has found a way to fill its coffers without relying upon star power.

This weekend at UFC 241, Nate Diaz is fighting a very game Anthony "Showtime" Pettis. If he picks up this win, one can expect Diaz to call for a title shot, or an even bigger fight if there is one. His is a name that would draw attention from both fans and anyone ranked in the top tier of the welterweight division. However, he no longer has the leverage to demand larger paydays and expect the UFC to comply. It remains to be seen whether a showstopping performance against Pettis can remind everyone watching why the Diaz name has value. But it's likely that regardless of the outcome of the bout, that name won't have value to the people that matter -- the ones that sign his UFC checks.

UFC 241
Nate Diaz vs. Anthony Pettis

UFC 241: Cormier vs. Miocic 2 takes place August 17, 2019 at Honda Center in Anaheim, California.

Click HERE for more UFC 241 Pre-Fight Analysis

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