It was madness. Michael Bisping had called out Nick Diaz for a UFC title shot at UFC 206.
Bisping, who originally planned to take the remainder of 2016 off, jumped at an opportunity to face off against a returning Georges St-Pierre. When those plans fell through, the middleweight champ was left with very few options. Most of the top middleweights were already booked. Nick Diaz, on the other hand, had a wide-open calendar.
If it’s not going to be GSP, I don’t mind being on the card against somebody else, and Nick Diaz would be somebody else that moves the needle. Now, I know I’m going to open myself up to criticism by saying that, but there’s been talk of us having a fight before. His last fight was against Anderson Silva, so he’s fought at 185 [pounds], and if Nick Diaz wants to do it, I’ll fight Nick Diaz.
At first glance, it appeared the pairing of Diaz and Bisping was too laughable to conceive. Diaz has enjoyed most of his MMA success below the 185-pound division and hasn’t won a fight since 2011. He’s also had as many drug-testing issues as he has had victories. However, until Luke Rockhold dropped out of his bout with Ronaldo “jacare” Souza, leaving the door open for a possible title showdown between Bisping and Jacare, it appeared that Diaz would be the man to get the call.
Whether or not Diaz would have passed a drug test following UFC 206 was irrelevant for the promotion. It’s all about generating interest in a card that’ll be stuck between the mammoth UFC 205 and UFC 207 cards. Daniel Cormier’s showdown with Anthony “Rumble” Johnson is an excellent fight on paper, but both men will struggle to escape the shadow of Jon Jones, who is emerging from a scandal involving performance-enhancing drugs.
The pairing of Bisping and Diaz would have given the UFC no shortage of sound bites to use. These men are two of the best trash-talkers in the game, and they could viably generate enough buzz to overshadow the main event. The Diaz cult following among fans has grown exponentially since Nick’s brother Nate competed in two bouts against Conor McGregor. Just imagine the war of words between not only the fighters, but also between the two sets of fans.
After the banter building up to UFC 206, odds are the fight would have been among the best in 2016. Both men would likely look to stand, and neither has ever been shy about adding some theatrics into their performances.
Of course, there are those who would say it goes completely against the idea of MMA as a sport. These critics are completely right. It does undercut the idea of the best fighters competing against one another. However, it’s 2016 and those days are long gone. Take, for example, the trending headline of the UFC using top lightweight contender Khabib Nurmagomedov to lower the payout for McGregor. Or the fact that McGregor is getting a lightweight title shot with zero 155-pound fights in his UFC tenure. Ronda Rousey is getting an immediate title shot after sitting out over a year, and it’s not even against the same woman who beat her. Brock Lesnar returned after years away from the sport to get a prime spot on the biggest card in UFC history. The days of MMA being pure sport are dead and gone.
It’s not just about seeing who’s the best anymore. Now, it’s also about who entertains the best. Bisping and Diaz are two of the best entertainers in the business. It’s easy to see why the UFC could put this fight together. Bisping is among the longest-tenured fighters in the promotion and has always been a company man. If there’s ever a guy who deserved a little pull behind the scenes while champion, it’s Bisping. The availability of Jacare might have thrown a wrench into Bisping’s plan to meet Diaz, but his callout of Diaz was still a move that was nothing short of genius.