Nate Diaz didn’t emerge from UFC 263 as a winner. However, he clearly won the hearts and minds of the mixed martial arts fanbase. The people’s champion? Sure, that’s a handle that would affix comfortably to Diaz.
It wasn’t just the spectators who welcomed back Diaz warmly to the octagon following a two-year absence. According to MMASalaries.com, Diaz banked $1.121 million from his unanimous decision loss to Leon Edwards. That stipend included a whopping $600,000 pay-per-view bonus.
Clearly, there’s a market for more Nate in all areas of the world of UFC. Even though he’s much like Conor McGregor, who is facing Dustin Poirier in the headline bout at UFC 264 – a once-great fighter who appears to be at a crossroads in terms of their careers, while at the same time, remaining one of the biggest drawing cards in the promotion.
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While McGregor’s next destination along his career path will ultimately be determined by his outcome inside the cage against Poirier, the road ahead for Diaz is much less clear. It’s obvious by the reaction and the payday he earned from returning to the sport that he remains a significantly marketable commodity in UFC.
At the same time, other than a late rally in which he nearly delivered a knockout punch against the flow of the fight, Diaz was clearly dominated by Edwards in their UFC 263 bout. At this point at least, and perhaps for the foreseeable future, based on his performance inside the octagon, as popular as he is, Diaz isn’t exhibiting the calibre of fighting ability that would make him a legitimate world title contender.
This all presents a perplexing problem for UFC President Dana White. He knows without a shadow of a doubt that putting Diaz as a headliner on any card means instant bank for the promotion. On the other hand, putting Diaz inside the cage against one of the top welterweight contenders likely means certain defeat for him. He’s 1-3 in his last four bouts and 4-6 over the past 10 fights.
All of this serves to make a prop wager on offer at BetOnline even more intriguing. The online sports betting site is offering odds on who will be the next opponent for Diaz.
Let’s look at each of the proposed options and try to decipher what might lay ahead for Nate.
Conor McGregor (+175)
This is the favorite in the betting line and it will make a lot of sense if Poirier, who recorded a second-round knockout over McGregor at UFC 257, completes the deed again at UFC 264 and takes care of the Notorious One once more.
They love their trilogies in the UFC more than Steven Spielberg and George Lucas and so far, the Diaz-McGregor series is 1-1. They fought twice in 2016. Diaz won via submission (rear-naked choke) at UFC 196. McGregor took a majority decision at UFC 202.
McGregor is also struggling to rediscover his mojo. He’s lost two of his last three fights. If he suffers another setback against Poirier, that might leave a big payday from a third fight with Diaz as McGregor’s best option.
Jorge Masvidal (+350)
The two fought for the BMF belt at UFC 244. Masvidal won via fourth-round TKO when the cage-side physician determined a cut over Diaz’s right eye rendered him unable to continue the fight.
Masvidal has twice lost welterweight title bouts to Kamaru Usman since that win over Diaz. A second payday against Nate might be something that would interest him.
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Tony Ferguson (+450)
Another once-great fighter who appears to have seen his best days, Ferguson has come out a loser in each of his last three bouts.
Would a Diaz-Ferguson fight work? Maybe. But it would have a PGA Champions Tour-type feel to it, a kind of remember how good these guys used to be vibe.
Others listed in this prop include Khamzat Chimaev (+600), Colby Covington (+750), Robbie Lawler (+800), Stephen Thompson (+1000) and Gilbert Burns (+1200).
Who will it be? Well, perhaps the best bet is to listen to the words of Cesar Gracie, Diaz’s coach.
“I would think the trilogy versus McGregor,” Gracie told MMAFighting.com. “I know that Nate wants tough fights. He is motivated by fighting the best guys.”