The BMF Title and The Disaster at Welterweight
An actual ‘People’s Main Event’ Main Event is coming to Madison Square Garden on November 2 as Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal face off for the BMF Belt. Yes an actual One Night Only belt as a trophy for the ‘Baddest Motherfucker in The Game”. Is this the epitome of ‘Entertainment Era’ novelty or a super necessary trophy, acknowledging these OG’s of the sport? Whether steering into or away from controversy, the Welterweight division continues to be an abject disaster at the top. Could Diaz or Masvidal finally bring stability and star power to the 170lbs strap or will the BMF title give birth to the 165lbs division?
In an unexpected development, in what was once close to being a done deal, Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington has apparently fallen apart as the main event of UFC’s return to MSG. The Welterweight title fight is being replaced with a new five round main event in Diaz vs Masvidal. According to Dana White in an interview with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, White revealed “that fight completely fell apart with those two and at one point it was looking like we might be doing Masvidal vs. Usman, then that fell apart.”
Dana White was reluctant to offer closed door details of why these fights fell apart and specifically for Covington who continues to miss out on title shots. White rather offered a reminder that “when I go out and tell you that we’ll do this guy vs. that guy, or this guy is next, if it doesn’t happen it’s not me. I’m out there trying to make fights, I just got Diaz vs. Masvidal done.”
And with Nate Diaz being notoriously difficult to deal with in contract negotiations it is indeed no overstatement that something is going terribly wrong at the top of the division if Dana White can book a Diaz fight easier than an Usman fight. And there may be a fire to that smoke as ESPN’s Ariel Helwani is reporting that weeks ago they were negotiating Diaz vs Masvidal but were too far apart on numbers and moved on. They attempted to follow through with Usman vs. Covington but hit a snag with Covington.
They moved onto booking Usman vs. Masvidal and then hit a snag with Usman. It is at this point that according to Helwani “things got so bad with Usman that they threatened to strip him and pulled all his guest fighter duties in Abu Dhabi. At that point, they reached out to Leon Edwards to see if he’d do a vacant title fight versus Masvidal. Those talks didn’t get very far because in the midst of all of that (around Wednesday night) talks reignited with Diaz. By Thursday night it was looking very promising. And then after an intense day of negotiations, they got the deal done yesterday afternoon.”
So Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal will square off in New York City for what Diaz named his ‘Baddest Motherfucker In The Game’ belt. It appears that Dana White might actually be running with the idea and claims to be “putting an actual belt together” for the winner of the bout as the BMF Champion. Many remain skeptical that this will actually happen, but White did insist that if it does it will only be a one time thing and the title would never change hands or be competed for again. Without a proper title fight to headline the MSG card, there is a bit of an argument for the one night stand title as a substitute to sell pay-per-views, but it is indeed a slippery slope uncomfortably close to WWE territory for the UFC to flirt with.
Regardless of one’s appreciation of both Diaz and Masvidal, the one night trophy could be perceived as a novelty item and indicative of the ‘Entertainment Era’ in MMA. But it is also impossible to see either of them associating themselves with anything approaching illegitimacy. There is certainly something to be said for awarding separate trophies, medals, etc. on the night, as currently seen in One Championship, but to award similar belts as those provided to proper divisional champions could tarnish the reverence and spirit of the accomplishment.
But then again what if the BMF belt was hijacked and referred to by the pair as the 165lbs divisional belt? The last go around at MSG for UFC 230, Diaz and Dustin Poirier were conspiring to make weight at 165 instead of 170, to force the issue of creating the new division. It could be just as likely for Diaz and Masvidal to follow through, make weight and lay claim the the new divisional crown. If they have managed to shape and talk this new actual belt into existence, who is to say they couldn’t have a hand in creating the new 165lbs division. And lets not forget another famous BMF, complete with his own BMF Ranch, that has always expressed his own desire for the new weight class.
Donald Cerrone has been just as vocal as Diaz and many others in expressing the need for a new ‘tweener’ division and would be a storybook candidate for the new Champion’s first title defense at 165lbs. Regardless of how things play out at UFC 244, things don’t look to be clearing up anytime soon at the top of the Welterweight division.
The six man tournament at the top of the division seemed pretty obvious and straight forward. Usman vs. Covington, Diaz vs. Masvidal and Woodley vs. Edwards has a real nice bow on it, but as White stresses what some people say out in public isn’t always the same thing that they say behind closed doors. And with the pay-per-view game changing in the new ESPN deal, it seems a pattern with many fighters starting to hold out on bout agreements as new market values and practices are established going forward. But the big show doesn’t stop for anybody and if you’re not on, you’re off and get left behind.
And it is that exact mentality that has seen Usman almost stripped of his title, something that the UFC is famously never reluctant to do. But the issues plaguing Welterweight go far beyond fighter’s negotiating tactics with the division’s best fighters ranging from unpopular, toxically unpopular to not a draw at all. Although it seems most people are starting to realize Covington is playing a character and has a separate, respectable real life personality, but the polarizing nature of the character still overshadows his abilities and accomplishments. The persona is the vessel that got him into the spotlight, but it will be difficult for Covington to realize his stardom if he can’t get off the rocket ship that delivered him there.
And even after a hall of fame performance against Ruthless Robbie Lawler, Covington still remains unpopular and difficult to endorse as a heel. Leon Edward is potentially the most exciting fighter in the entire 170lbs division as far is performance is concerned, but because he refuses to keep up with the trash talk he is consistently overlooked. Even with the viral meme treatment after his ‘3 Piece and a Soda’ backstage incident he remains incapable of breaking into the spotlight. And again, much like Covington, despite putting on absolute clinics against high level talent, he still struggles for stardom.
It is the genius of Nate Diaz that looks to bring order to the Welterweights, even if he doesn’t end up with the title when the dust settles. He expertly plotted and succeeded in hijacking the title run momentum of Anthony Pettis. With one fight and one call out he coalesced that momentum with a red hot Masvidal’s. When Edwards was close to stealing the Masvidal fight, Diaz with his new status as a ‘needle mover’ snuck in with the counter offer to protect his path to gold.
The winner of that bout will inherit all of this consolidated mana and could very well be fighting for a ‘second’ belt. While the rest of the division is busy tripping over their own dicks, Nate Diaz has quietly masterminded a Welterweight coup. With all the planets finally aligning, could he finally become a UFC Champion in 2020? I wouldn’t be surprised motherfuckers.