The UFC welterweight division is popping right now. Talent is everywhere, amazing fighters are poised on the edge of superstardom, and it feels like all the UFC needs to do is book the division right and we could have a wild ride from now until the middle of 2021.
Unfortunately, putting the pieces together sounds like it’s proving harder in reality than on paper. Fighter egos are a hell of a thing, and what might be good for the UFC isn’t always the most interesting for the athlete. Recent news had Stephen Thompson outright turning down the UFC’s offer to fight up and coming contender Khamzat Chimaev. A rematch between Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz (the fight both Masvidal and Diaz seem to want) is currently being shelved in favor of Masvidal vs. Covington. And that leaves Nate Diaz without a dance partner.
So what do you do? Don’t worry, UFC … Daniel Cormier has the answers for the division.
“Here’s the problem: Nate Diaz won’t fight just anyone. It has to be someone with name,” he said on the latest episode of The DC & Helwani Show. “And honestly, most of the guys just don’t fit it. Like you put him in there with Leon, who’s still trying to elevate his name? You need someone with a name to fight Nate Diaz. S**t, Conor wants to fight? Let him and Nate do the trilogy. Why not just do the trilogy. Both of em are free. That could work. There you go Nate.”
“Usman vs. Burns, Wonderboy vs. Khamzat, Leon vs. Magny, Diaz vs. McGregor, now you got five big fights, you’re settled and you’re good to go.”
Why force “Wonderboy” into the Chimaev fight when he has no interest in it at all? Cormier has been called out for repping the company line without proper explanation on his show with Helwani, but in this case he lays out his reasoning. Without directly calling Thompson a gatekeeper, “DC” totally called “Wonderboy” a gatekeeper.
“This is why I say Wonderboy: it’s because he’s fought for the title a few times already,” Cormier said. “And now at this point in his career, he’s kind of this guy who can still compete with the best of the best, but if you’re able to get past him you’re completely ready as a contender … He’s one of those guys now where he’s gotta build through beating some of these guys in order to put himself back into title contention.”
Of course, the UFC could always just (and this is a crazy idea) let the fighters fight who they wanted to this time. While not the most relevant battle to the 170 title picture, Masvidal vs. Diaz 2 is guaranteed fireworks. Stephen Thompson has paid his dues and stepped up time and time again for the UFC, so why not grant him his wish of fighting Leon Edwards? And Neil Magny has straight up repeatedly asked to fight Khamzat Chimaev. It’s not the flashiest name for Khamzat, but Magny is the meanest dude in the division without fireworks behind his name.
It doesn’t have to be as hard as the UFC wants to make it, but as the Conor McGregor situation confirms, even the biggest superstars in the company don’t get what they want all the time.