You’ll forgive us if we indulge in a little wishful thinking and rumormongering, but in a weary world edging toward winter, dreams are often more important than probabilities, hopes more significant than facts, and sweet speculation can free the troubled mind to soar.
Speaking on his podcast this weekend, UFC color commentator Joe Rogan—one-third of whose career involves luxuriating in the joy of rumors and conspiracy theories (about subjects as varied as bigfoot, UFOs, government cover-ups, and human growth hormones)—gave himself over to perhaps the greatest of all MMA flights of fancy, telling his guest, former MMA lightweight Yves Edwards, that he had heard talk about a prospective fight between Conor McGregor and Nick Diaz.
“Man, I’d heard some crazy rumor I’d hoped was true,” Rogan said with a look of undisguised glee on his face, “that they were gonna try and set up Nick Diaz versus Conor. I’m like, ‘My god, that would break the world.’ Do you know, like, how insane the hype would be for a Nick Diaz versus Conor McGregor fight? I mean, can you even imagine how crazy that would be?”
Now, Rogan is just talking here. He’s simply hanging out on his podcast with a few of his buddies, most likely high as a kite, watching fights, just a fan, and indulging in the kind of flights of fancy we all do when we allow ourselves to give voice to our most intoxicated amateur-matchmaking fantasies. There could be nothing more natural than that. In fact, it was just such free-from speculating that led to the creation of the UFC in the first place: Who would win between a boxer and wrestler?, one friend asked another over a beer. And the rest is history. Earth-shaking movements are born out of such tiny mental tinkering.
And Joe Rogan has been around the UFC forever. No one is more plugged into back-channels than he is, so when he says he’s hearing rumors that’s something different than the rumors you or I might have heard prowling the Internet or parsing interviews.
And besides, a fight between McGregor and Nick Diaz, despite its anatomical obstacles, has the air of the possible in this new UFC era. This is the age of the money fight after all (an age ushered in by McGregor), wherein the base lineal ranking concerns of this weight class or that weight class mean less than the promotional possibilities of inter-divisional clashes between mighty opposites. Ever since McGregor jumped two classes to take on Nick’s younger brother, Nate, arguments about who has the legitimate claim to which title fight have begun to sound small, like petty arguments over country estates in a Jane Austen novel. Ours is becoming an age of clashes between great talents and personalities—forces of nature, really—that can’t and maybe shouldn’t be contained by the limitations of anatomical inheritance. McGregor, god bless him, is the one to recognize that historical greatness transcends such petty concerns as body weight and divisional rank and that legacies have no time for the boundaries of smaller minds.
Such thinking is how great stories are made, not just great fights. Imagine it: McGregor fights an even bigger man than he did last time, and, better, that man is making his UFC return after a long penalty for a ridiculous crime (Diaz was busted for having marijuana metabolites in his blood two years ago), giving the fight a narrative of both transcendence and redemption, and even better than that, this Diaz is the older brother of Nate Diaz, who, after knocking out McGregor once and then losing to him by close decision, has every right in the world to demand a rubber match but who may have to settle for watching his older brother (whose footsteps and shadow he’s been walking in for at least 10 years) exact familial revenge. So the fight takes on an almost Biblical air, or at least something from a medieval court suspense or a multi-generational gangster drama. And who’s to say that Nick Diaz beating Conor McGregor wouldn’t be worse for the Diaz brothers than Nate losing a second time? Will Nate, arguably now the bigger star in the family, be able to stomach the inevitable jibes from McGregor that he is letting his big brother fight his fights for him?
Yes, the monetary, promotional, poetic, prosaic, and mythic possibilities for such a fight would be boundless. And with the UFC increasingly making fights like the end of the world is just around the corner (which, let’s be honest, it may be), this may be just the fight to risk the apocalypse for.
Now for the cold water: Conor McGregor already has a fight scheduled, for the lightweight belt at Madison Square Garden in November. Nick Diaz fought his last fight at 185, a full 40 pounds over McGregor’s limit at featherweight, and hasn’t fought lower than 170 for nearly a decade. Guts are guts, but at a certain point in the fight game, size is destiny. And the fact is, it’s hard to imagine Nick doing anything to upset Nate, much less taking a fight with the Irishman when Nate has a legitimate claim to being next in line. It just doesn’t sound like something a Diaz would do.
But it doesn’t matter if there’s any substance to Rogan’s fantasizing, does it? Coming to the end of his career an a UFC announcer, pushing 50, and happily ensconced in his basement podcast studio, he seems happy enough to make his money parsing the worlds mysteries and dreaming on its possibilities. And for a longtime MMA fan one could argue that there could be no greater dream fight, no contest more fantastical and full of the joy and delight of possibility, than one between Conor McGregor and Nick Diaz. I say let the man and us dream. These are dreaming times. In the Money Fight Era, wild speculation is the order of the day.
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