Actual or Not — May Nate Diaz be in Conor McGregor’s post-UFC 264 plans? A heavyweight mess?

UFC 264 is predicted to provide the subsequent challenger to light-weight champion Charles Oliveira, as Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor full their trilogy in the principle occasion. However might there be a wrinkle in these plans?

Few doubt Poirier will pursue the title if he wins. He might have already got fought for the gold, however he selected the extra profitable choice of dealing with McGregor a 3rd time. However what if McGregor wins? Will he problem Oliveira, or might he select to finish one other trilogy with a blockbuster in opposition to Nate Diaz? Even when he had been to lose to Diaz at a better weight, that theoretically may not have an effect on his probability to problem for the light-weight title in his subsequent struggle.

The title image at heavyweight turned extra attention-grabbing — unnecessarily so? — final week when UFC president Dana White introduced the creation of an interim belt. That will probably be on the road for Derrick Lewis and Ciryl Gane in the principle occasion of UFC 265. Was that the fitting transfer, contemplating Francis Ngannou simply gained the title on March 27?

ESPN’s panel of Mike Coppinger, Carlos Contreras Legaspi, Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim separates what’s actual from what’s not for UFC 264 and past.

If McGregor wins, he positively will struggle for the title subsequent

Raimondi: That is solely a query as a result of he is Conor McGregor — the most important star in UFC historical past — and may basically name his personal shot. So if McGregor wished to finish his trilogy with Diaz subsequent — whether or not he wins or loses in opposition to Poirier — the UFC most likely would get behind that. You by no means know with McGregor. Perhaps he’ll need to field once more, although it looks as if that mentioned Manny Pacquiao matchup is gone now that McGregor’s illustration, Paradigm Sports activities Administration, is suing Pacquiao for breach of contract.

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If McGregor loses to Poirier, the Diaz trilogy is perhaps the struggle to make. But when McGregor wins, essentially the most logical step is difficult Charles Oliveira for the belt. McGregor already has been a UFC light-weight and featherweight champion, however absolutely he’s motivated by the potential for changing into the primary fighter to win the UFC light-weight title greater than as soon as.

It looks as if he has been seen as extra of a preferred attraction than elite fighter since dropping in his boxing foray to Floyd Mayweather in 2017 and to Khabib Nurmagomedov the next 12 months. McGregor absolutely would relish getting again the title he as soon as held, etching his identify within the UFC historical past books but once more and proving lots of people unsuitable. And that is why it is title or bust subsequent if he beats Poirier.

Win or lose, Poirier won’t remorse passing on a title struggle to finish the Conor trilogy

Legaspi: Undoubtedly actual. Minutes after he knocked out McGregor at UFC 257, Poirier expressed his intention to shut the trilogy with McGregor over combating for a vacant title. He even performed matchmaker and talked about that Michael Chandler ought to struggle Charles Oliveira — which finally occurred 4 months later. The 155 belt wasn’t on his thoughts, and he was clear about it from the beginning.

Poirier embraced his brief tenure as an interim champion again in 2019 and put that run with the second when he evened the rating with the Irish famous person because the excessive factors of his lengthy profession. Now, for the primary time in over 25 fights within the UFC, he had the leverage on the cash struggle and knew that McGregor was going to push for the third one over another alternative.

Passing on the trilogy struggle would have opened a distinct path for Conor, stuffed with choices like Nate Diaz, Justin Gaethje and possibly Jorge Masvidal. All of them with a better PPV promote potential than Poirier versus any deserving light-weight contender (and there isn’t any assure he would’ve gained that struggle, which might’ve been the final word catastrophe: no large purse, no title).

Poirier is assured that he is the very best fighter within the division and that he’ll struggle for the belt once more in the end, however alternatives like this solely come as soon as, possibly twice in a lifetime.

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A Conor McGregor occasion in Las Vegas is larger than something boxing can at present supply

Coppinger: Actual. McGregor is the most important star in fight sports activities in the intervening time. Canelo Alvarez is second, with Manny Pacquiao and heavyweight champ Tyson Fury proper behind them.

These three boxers are all main attracts on The Strip, however none boasts the star energy of McGregor, a real crossover attraction who takes over Vegas each time his struggle week arrives.

His occasions immediately promote out, whatever the competitors. A struggle with main underdog Cowboy Cerrone? Nonetheless a mega-event.

And now with Las Vegas rising from the pandemic, who higher than McGregor to be the primary star to make the most of full capability?

That it is a trilogy struggle with one other standard fighter in Dustin Poirier makes the occasion much more monstrous.

And the stakes are excessive, as McGregor appears to be like to rebound from his KO loss to Poirier in January. With one other loss, McGregor will stay a star, however so far as the highest fighter in Vegas, Alvarez is scorching on his heels and eyeing a Sept. 18 bout with Caleb Plant in Vegas for all 4 belts.

The UFC made the fitting transfer in reserving an interim heavyweight title struggle

Okamoto: Not actual. It was a puzzling choice by the UFC, and one which I feel caught most of us off guard.

Ngannou took an extended highway to the UFC championship: He was mainly a No. 1 contender for years however was pressured to attend for his shot attributable to timing and circumstances out of his management. In all that point, he by no means acquired a chance to struggle for an interim title — however now, three months into his reign, the UFC creates one for Lewis and Gane?

This looks like a tough factor to justify. So far as how this all truly impacts him, it could possibly be very minimal, actually. Yeah, there will probably be an interim champ in his division come Aug. 7, however what does that even imply? Nobody will think about Lewis or Gane extra of a champion than Ngannou. That winner will simply basically be a No. 1 contender.

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There have been two interim champions topped throughout Khabib Nurmagomedov’s reign because the UFC’s light-weight champ, however did anybody ever think about his title to be one thing lower than “undisputed”?

Frankly, I do not thoughts seeing Lewis and Gane earn more money for his or her struggle on Aug. 7, which they are going to now that it is for an interim title. So in the end I feel Ngannou will come away from this simply effective. But when he feels the UFC disrespected him and what he is completed in making this choice, that is actually legitimate — and it does not really feel just like the UFC needed to do it.

As an alternative of interim titles, the UFC ought to look to the BMF belt for inspiration

Wagenheim: Nobody goes to complain about being given the chance to observe Lewis and Gane throw punches at one another. And but the reserving of their Aug. 7 struggle has created a windstorm of blowback from everybody from followers to media, promoters to managers. It is all about that rattling interim belt.

The UFC clearly likes topping the marquee with a title struggle, and if there isn’t any champion obtainable on a given date, the promotion generally simply makes one up. At the very least that is the best way it appears to us on the surface. And the issue with that marketing strategy is that it distorts actuality. Everybody is aware of that Ngannou is the best heavyweight on the planet, so why should we faux that another person is champ?

As an alternative, put the creativeness to extra artistic use. Assume like Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz, who each understood the worth of injecting their 2019 struggle with a storyline greater than themselves. The winner, they determined, could be the BMF. Followers liked the thought, and the UFC purchased in by making a belt. It was enjoyable. It was profitable.

After all, there’s just one BMF — and just one Jorge and one Nate, for that matter. However sprinkled all through the UFC’s roster are fighters who aren’t (but) at a championship degree however could possibly be a part of quirky “title” bouts that may resonate. Nicest MF. Floor-and-pound pound-for-pound. King of the leg kick. Gimmicky, I do know, however this strategy feels much more actual than messing with weight class hierarchies. And a gimmick title can construct its personal narrative — like, Lewis and Gane battling it out for the Third-Baddest Man on the Planet belt.

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