Nate Diaz fought for the first time in three years, dominated a top-10 ranked opponent Saturday, then challenged Jorge Masvidal to a bout between two gangsters.
The beating Diaz gave Anthony Pettis, a former UFC lightweight champion coming off the back of a thumping victory over Stephen Thompson, was as raw as his personality.
Diaz, a walking expletive, beat Pettis by unanimous decision, dictating a gruelling pace that was beyond his opponent.
What was more extraordinary about the dominant nature of the Diaz win, was that he did so having competed for the first time since his two-fight rivalry with Conor McGregor in 2016.
A trilogy bout against McGregor seemed an obvious path for Diaz to pursue. It is a fight McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh has previously hailed as “a beautiful fight” and a “great personality match-up.”
It is one of few fights that would, perhaps, represent an event capable of getting the Irish striker back into the Octagon.
The only problem is that Diaz doesn’t want it.
Earlier in the week, the New York Times reported that Diaz said: “I’m not going to take a fight just to make a name for someone else. I’ve been making names for other fighters my whole career.”
On Saturday, Diaz stayed true to his word.
He had the Honda Center crowd in Anaheim in the palm of his hand after a high-pressure victory over Pettis, and it was here where he revealed his post-event plan — he wanted Masvidal.
Masvidal, of course, went viral after he hit the welterweight wrestler Ben Askren with a flying knee, knocking the previously unbeaten American out in five seconds. He then mercilessly mocked his opponent while Askren lay awkward, wooden, and concussed on the floor.
That was July, and Masvidal has since amped up a two-forked campaign. He wanted one of two things: a title fight against Kamaru Usman or a money fight against McGregor.
But when Diaz challenged him to a fight in the middle of the cage this weekend, saying, “he ain’t no West Coast gangster,” all Masvidal, who was cageside at the time, could do was stick his tongue out, shake his fist, and laugh.
This was because a third option had presented itself, and it was perhaps the most tempting of the lot.
A fight between Diaz and Masvidal, the Californian later said on MMA Fighting, would be “for the baddest mother-f—– in the game belt.” Yes, an imaginary title, but it is one fans would get behind.
It also moves the needle for the UFC with the company president Dana White even saying at the press conference: “Who wouldn’t want to see that fight? I think everyone would want to see that fight.”
But it is a fight that further ostracizes McGregor from the big events he would have been chasing if and when he were to return to the sport.
McGregor has not actually won a fight since he sought revenge against Diaz for an earlier defeat. In the three years that have passed, he has lost a boxing rules contest to Floyd Mayweather and a UFC title fight to Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The Russian wrestler defends his title at UFC 242 in September, and McGregor may well be waiting to see how that fight plays out.
But if Nurmagomedov wins, he will unlikely entertain another fight so soon with McGregor, saying he is irrelevent until he actually wins again.
The best opponents and biggest fights in the UFC are now beyond McGregor and it is because he has been absent too long, and the division has moved on without him.
With Nurmagomedov, Diaz, and Masvidal moving on, it leaves McGregor with few options but to work from the bottom to the top — a position he has not been used to for years.