UFC 244, which is slated for Nov. 2 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, has a headlining bout, but it’s not the one that almost everyone had on their radar. A fan-demanded bout between Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal is taking the top slot at UFC 244, not the UFC welterweight championship bout that had been in the works.
UFC officials had been working on Kamaru Usman’s first title defense for Madison Square Garden, but when his fight with Colby Covington fell apart, UFC president Dana White shifted gears, eventually landing on Diaz vs. Masvidal.
“It is the fight fans wanted to see,” White told ESPN. “Nate Diaz called out Masvidal after his win over (Anthony) Pettis. Everybody has been talking about it. People have been hitting me up on social media, telling me to get it done. I can now announce the fight is done.”
Why is a non-title fight headlining UFC 244?
It’s extremely rare that a non-title fight headlines a UFC pay-per-view. Nate’s brother, Nick Diaz, was part of one of those rare instances when he fought Anderson Silva at UFC 183 in January of 2015. Now Nate will be part of such a fight, although White declared there would be a non-official title on the line.
“I’m going to put together a belt for these two, they can fight for the ‘BMF’ belt,” White stated. “It’s one of those fights that is fun, interesting, fans are into it. You want to see it for five rounds, yet it’s too big to be a fight night; so we made it a pay-per-view. I will end up stacking this card with killer fights. The main event will be those two.”
White confirmed that there will be no other championship bouts on the card, though he promised to stack the card with “some fun fights like (Diaz vs. Masvidal).”
The BMF belt is drawn from Diaz’s callout of Masvidal after defeating Anthony Pettis at UFC 241 in Anaheim, Calif.
“The reason why I was off (for three years) was because everybody sucks. There was nobody to fight,” Diaz said at UFC 241.
“Jorge Masvidal had a good last fight. All respect to the man, but there ain’t no gangsters in this game anymore. There ain’t nobody that done it right but me and him. I know my man’s a gangster, but he ain’t no West Coast gangster.”
Diaz later added at the UFC 241 post-fight press conference that he wanted to fight Masvidal for the “baddest motherf—er on the planet belt,” which White appears more than willing to make happen.
What happened to Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington for the UFC welterweight title?
White had been targeting Usman vs. Covington for the UFC welterweight championship as the UFC 244 headliner, but negotiations fell apart. He then shifted to an Usman vs. Masvidal bout, but when that fight also proved difficult to get done, he shifted gears to Diaz vs. Masvidal.
“(The fight between Usman and Covington) completely fell apart between those two,” White told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto. “That fight fell apart. At one point, it was looking like we might be doing Masvidal vs. Usman, then that fell apart, and (Diaz vs. Masvidal) popped up out of nowhere (Friday) night and really started to come together and looked like it could be done, so we got it done.”
Covington has been next for a title shot on three occasions, all of which have now fallen apart. When asked specifically about why Usman vs. Covington fell apart, White said it wasn’t for lack of him wanting to get the fight done, but on the fighter.
“Remember this, I put on fights for a living. That’s what I do. When I go out and tell you we’ll do this guy versus this guy, this guy is next, if it doesn’t happen, it’s not me,” White explained.
“I’m out there trying to make fights. I just got Diaz and Masvidal done, which is unbelievable. Like I told you the other day, what guys say publicly and what goes on behind closed doors is two different things. The thing about me, I don’t wait for anybody. I don’t care big of star you are, I have a fight at MSG, so we move, we roll. You either get on board or you get left behind and we’ll talk to you later on down the road.”
Dana White announces Nate Diaz vs. Jorge Masvidal will headline UFC 244
(Video courtesy of ESPN MMA | Viewing may be limited by broadcast rights restrictions)