In between the lines of all his demanding trash talk over the years, all Nate Diaz has really ever asked for are big fights, and the money to go along with them. He’s deserved both for a long time.
Until Saturday, however, he was one of the relatively worst-paid elite fighters in the UFC despite being a perennially top-ranked guy with a rabid fanbase who has pulled in big TV ratings for FOX cards. After a decade in the UFC, Diaz has won perhaps the toughest TUF season of all-time, season five, and fought for a world title.
Now he can add beating the most celebrated man in the sport to his resume.
Saturday’s UFC 196 was the first time that Diaz has ever headlined a pay-per-view, however. With just a week of promotion, Diaz and Conor McGregor turned the card into what what Dana White says may end up being the biggest-selling PPV in the promotion’s history.
More than sell the fight, of course, Diaz won it, and won it convincingly, and quickly. His victory was made for television — it had plenty of drama, blood, slugging, and his typical taunting and spectacular boxing and submission work. Nate Diaz won in typical Nate Diaz fashion, and he did it with a the type of large audience his skills, star-power and accomplishments deserve.
Diaz came into the match already one of the most popular fighters in the sport. With the performance he gave, on the stage he executed it on, Nate may have exited the Octagon as the biggest male name in the UFC.
Conor McGregor has the sponsors, the magazine covers and the millions, and he was coming off of a quick knockout over the longest-reigning, most dominant and likely best champion in the UFC, pound-for-pound. Scores filled the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday, and probably millions more watched on television, to see the UFC’s poster boy take on and take out the foul-mouthed kid from Stockton.
Diaz gave them a show — he was the show — but he also took much more for himself. He took McGregor’s momentum, his spotlight and his stage, by force.
On a night where possibly more people tuned in to a UFC pay-per-view event than ever before. Nate Diaz out-classed the man most thought was the best, and out-brassed the man many fans considered the brashest.
“There’s a new king of this mother [expletive], and its right here,” he shouted, afterward, looking into and gesturing at the camera.
He’s not wrong. Who beats whom when the lights shine the brightest are how victors and stars are determined in the fight world.
In December, Diaz complained that McGregor had “taken everything I worked for.” On Saturday, Diaz stole McGregor’s shine, and he did it with his fighting — the way it should be done.
Diaz has helped make the UFC millions, for years and years. Recently, he was making $20,000 to show for fights.
On Saturday, the new king made $500,000 to show. It’s a start.