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    Nate Diaz vs. Jorge Masvidal comes full circle Saturday
    • July 6, 2024

    Five years ago next month, Nate Diaz sketched out a circle in Anaheim that, on Saturday, is fated to close where it began.

    Following a unanimous-decision victory over former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis in 2019, Diaz, the one-of-a-kind combat sports star from Stockton, Calif., stood in the Octagon at Honda Center and conjured something out of nothing.

    B. Baddest. M. Mother. F. You get the gist.

    The BMF belt was divined during a postfight moment that undressed the sport of mixed martial arts and many of the fighters under contract to the industry-dominating UFC, for which the pot-smoking, profanity-dropping, oft-misunderstood Diaz had morphed into an anti-hero prior to striking out on his own as a free agent in 2022.

    A foil for sportsmen. A foil for meatheads. A foil for brawlers. A foil for tacticians. The guy to root for, for all the right reasons, wrong reasons … or no reason whatsoever.

    Coming off a majority-decision defeat to Conor McGregor in 2016, Diaz’s MMA record stood at 18-11 prior to having his hand raised against Pettis following the co-main event of UFC 241 in Anaheim.

    An emerging cult figure, Diaz proved capable of pulling off what most professional athletes with win-loss records like his never could. That made the call-out of Jorge Masvidal, who was seated inside Honda Center among a cache of fighters the night of the Pettis fight, all the more audacious.

    From Diaz’s perspective, UFC title belts – the trophies fighters generally do whatever they can to have wrapped around their waists – were blah, whatever. That he wasn’t the caliber of fighter to hold a title didn’t actually matter.

    From now on he was interested in fighting opponents who, like him, he said, were considered “the baddest.”

    But not necessarily the best.

    At the time, few fighters fit the bill better than Masvidal.

    Coming off a five-second flying-knee knockout of Ben Askren, the Miami-based mixed martial artist and bare-knuckle street fighter embraced his inner Tony Montana. The world was for the taking, the Cuban-American presumed well before Diaz’s moment of inspiration, and all the Californian did was pour gasoline on an inferno.

    A few months later, the UFC capitalized on the viral moment and promoted Diaz versus Masvidal in a main-event clash for the first BMF title fight at Madison Square Garden.

    Masvidal walked away with the embossed belt in anticlimactic fashion when the ringside physician ended the bout after the third round due to cuts above Diaz’s right eye.

    In a sporting sense, the outcome meant nothing. But as the figment of Diaz’s imagination sprang to life, not only did the title survive whatever criticism there was about the creation of UFC-trademarked vanity titles, the concept continued to the point that, a half decade on from their initial clash, the UFC has promoted two more BMF-branded contests and the BMF OGs are ready to cash in on the idea again.

    Such that they exist, stakes around the bout for the pair of 39-year-old warriors have nothing to do with moving up the competitive food chain; elevating their contendership status; or claiming a title.

    Diaz is fighting because that’s what he does.

    “We’re ready to fight, nothing else,” Diaz said. “It’s kill or be killed. He’s done a lot of impressive [expletive], but I’m gonna be ready for him.”

    Masvidal will show up for legacy – and the biggest payday of his career.

    “Only thing I’ve ever brought to combat sports is violence and a little technique,” Masvidal said. “That’s how I get my hand raised.”

    That volatile combination defines the intrigue of their rematch Saturday, a 10-round boxing contest in the light heavyweight division that fronts a $49.99 pay-per-view presented by Fanmio, a digital platform that stumbled into the combat sports business in 2021 when it was involved with an exhibition boxing bout between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Logan Paul.

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    Originally scheduled for June 1 at the Kia Forum in Inglewood with a pay-per-view price point of $79.99, the promotion backed off that date less than a month before the fighters were set to step in the ring due to sluggish ticket sales and the fact that they would have run head-to-head against the UFC.

    Without the UFC promotional machine, the most attention the rematch received came last month following a brawl between the fighters’ camps in front of Honda Center, where, fittingly, Diaz’s BMF concept took flight.

    ​ Orange County Register 

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