No official UFC title? No problem.
The main event for UFC 244 figured to be Kamaru Usman defending his welterweight belt against Colby Covington, but that fight has seemingly fallen apart for money reasons, so welterweights Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal will get the headlining spot at Madison Square Garden on November 2nd.
ESPN confirmed the news with UFC president Dana White on Saturday.
“It’s one of those fights that is fun, interesting, fans are into it, you want to see for five rounds — yet it’s too big to be a fight night,” White told Brett Okamoto. “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 added that there will not be a title fight beneath this card.
Diaz (20-11) returned from a three-year absence from the Octagon to dismantle Anthony Pettis in the UFC 241 co-main event. The one-sided unanimous decision marked his first victory since his memorable submission of Conor McGregor at UFC 196. Afterward, Diaz called for a fight with Jorge Masvidal, which Masvidal had mutual interest in.
Masvidal (34-13) is riding about as sensational a two-fight winning streak as you could possibly have. “Gamebred” had a KO of the Year contender finish of Darren Till at UFC London in March, then followed it with the undeniable KO of the Year against Ben Askren at UFC 239, melting the former Bellator and ONE champion with a flying knee in a record-setting five seconds.
As awesome as this fight is, we do need to pay some attention to the mess that preceded this matchup coming to fruition. ESPN outlines the failed negotiations that involved first Usman and Covington, then Usman and Masvidal, then Masvidal against Leon Edwards for a vacant (!) title.
Late last week, the UFC tried to book welterweight champion Kamaru Usman versus Colby Covington for the MSG headliner. After failing to come to terms with Covington on a deal, the UFC moved on and offered the title fight to Masvidal, according to sources. After coming to terms with Masvidal on Wednesday, the promotion was unable to strike a deal with Usman. That prompted the UFC to reach out to top contender Leon Edwards to see if he would be interested in fighting Masvidal for the vacant title after a threat was made to strip Usman of the belt.
The talks with Edwards didn’t progress, because in the midst of all this an opportunity presented itself to book Diaz versus Masvidal as the MSG headliner, sources say. Once it was clear there was mutual interest between all parties to make that fight happen, the UFC focused its attention over the past day or so to book that fight. They were able to finalize it Friday afternoon, ESPN learned.
So Diaz vs. Masvidal is a done deal (we assume), but everything else surrounding it still needs to sort itself out down the line.