B/R MMA Mailbag: Answering Your Post-UFC 270 and Diaz-Poirier QuestionsJanuary 26, 2022
Welcome back to the B/R MMA Mailbag. Here's where we answer your questions about the MMA issues of the day.
UFC 270 is in the rearview, and it may have raised more questions than it answered. After his unanimous decision win over Ciryl Gane in Saturday's main event, heavyweight champ Francis Ngannou faces a fork in the road. As does the UFC.
There has been plenty of talk about contracts of late. With a sizable lawsuit bringing more company details into the public sphere, our knowledge of fighter contracts and UFC business practices is more fleshed out than ever.
Why is this timely? More than one of this week's questions deal squarely with issues related to contracts. So let's jump right in. Want to see your question featured? Drop it in the mailbag each Monday, and I'll answer a selection of them here. Extra points for a solid piece of sarcasm.
Why didn't Dana White put the belt on Francis and no-show the presser after the fight?
To properly answer this question, one must first plunge oneself down the contractual rabbit hole.
Dana White is a tenacious—some might say pugnacious—negotiator. He doesn't like it when anyone else has leverage. But Ngannou has a big share after Saturday's title defense.
Here's the background: As many fans know, this was the last fight on Ngannou's existing contract. However, the UFC may invoke the champion's clause, which automatically extends that contract.
And yet, there was Ngannou talking openly about boxing Tyson Fury. Why? Because he has an ace up his sleeve—a belief that he could simply wait out the contract until early 2023. A perfect amount of time to undergo and rehab from, oh, I don't know, a knee surgery.
White is well aware of all of this and as such was surely rooting for Gane—don't forget, Gane was the favorite in this matchup.
But Ngannou used that much-improved wrestling to turn the tables on Gane and White. So White, most likely in an agitated state after the contest, did what he does best: spit in the eyes of his adversaries, real and perceived. White didn't like what happened, so he took his ball and went home. No respect to the champ, no answering questions on something he doesn't want to talk about. We'll see how negotiations unfold from here and how Ngannou proceeds with that knee surgery.
When the dust settles, what fight will we end up seeing for the last fight of the Nate Diaz contract? Diaz-Poirier, Diaz-McGregor or Diaz flipping off the UFC?
I like to picture Nate Diaz just flipping the bird to everyone he sees. It's more like a greeting for Nate at this point. He holds the door for an old lady, she says thank you, he flips the bird. He's waiting for his latte at Starbucks, they call his name, he takes the latte and flips the bird to each barista one at a time. Then he accuses them all of taking PEDs. (Warning: tweet contains profanity)
That's the world I want to live in. In the world in which I actually live, contract issues are once again rearing their ugly heads.
Diaz is indeed on the final fight of his contract. But wait, you may be asking, didn't the UFC just extend his contract? Yes, but there's one little snag. Per MMA broadcaster Ariel Helwani, Diaz never signed it (h/t Bloody Elbow's Milan Ordonez).
Diaz is spoiling for a battle with Poirier, but according to Helwani, the UFC may not let it happen unless Diaz extends his contract by one fight so he can also face McGregor when the notorious Irishman returns from the leg disintegration he sustained in his last bout with Poirier (h/t MMA Mania's Ryan Harkness).
The alternative is for Diaz to wait to face McGregor in McGregor's return bout. But there are a lot of ifs in that scenario, not least of which is a potential McGregor date with lightweight champ Charles Oliveira or one of several other high-octane bangers in the UFC's current marquee division. Are you telling me you wouldn't shell out to see McGregor face Michael Chandler or Tony Ferguson? Of course not. To a lesser extent, McGregor's recovery timeline is a factor, though summer is an increasingly likely target.
There's a lot of uncertainty here, but my guess is the UFC will pull the trigger on Diaz-Poirier. That's a big pay-per-view draw, and with Diaz now 36 years old, the window won't stay open forever. McGregor will attract main-event-level eyeballs no matter whom he faces, so that matchmaking is more likely to take care of itself. Poirier and to a lesser extent Diaz need strong dance partners to make a surefire headliner.
As they say, a bird in the hand [dons sunglasses] is worth two in the bush.
What happens first, a fourth fight between Figgy and Moreno or does Kara-France get a shot?
Good question. Figgy, aka Deiveson Figueiredo, recaptured the flyweight title in the UFC 270 co-main event, leg-kicking his way to a unanimous decision win over Brandon Moreno.
With their first contest being a draw, and with each man now having one win over the other, there's clearly some unfinished business here.
Kai Kara-France is an electric striker, coming out of City Kickboxing in New Zealand, training alongside middleweight champion Israel Adesanya and plenty of others. He got the biggest win of his career in December when he wiped out former bantamweight champ and current glass cannon Cody Garbrandt. He's climbing the ladder in a big way, but he's still just 3-2 in his last five dating back to 2019.
Another strong possibility is Askar Askarov, an undefeated Dagestani whom Moreno fought to a draw, also in 2019. His grinding style isn't pretty, but it's damned effective.
And hey, here's a neat twist: In a piece of solid match-making, Kara-France and Askarov are set to face off in March. The winner will be locked in as the top contender outside of Moreno and Figgy.
The UFC hasn't been quick to make a fourth fight between two rivals. In fact, they've never done it at all. There's no better time than now to break that seal. Both fighters have agreed in principle to a fourth bout, perhaps in Mexico or Brazil.
The action between them is fierce, the margins razor thin. I think the UFC sets a new precedent and books these two greats for a historic matchup later this year.
We'll stop there for now, but see you next week. In the meantime, feel free to follow me on Twitter @ScottHarrisMMA.