The Big Apple demands a big event and UFC delivers by making Jorge Masvidal vs. Nate Diaz for MSG

Combat columnist
Yahoo Sports
Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz will headline UFC 244 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. (Getty Images/USA Today Sports)
Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz will headline UFC 244 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. (Getty Images/USA Today Sports)

Think back to when you were in school, and word began to spread like a bad virus that the toughest two kids in the building were going to fight out back.

Everyone showed up. Everyone.

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The football players were late for practice. The cheerleaders snuck outside to catch a peek. Even the kids who would so disdainfully say, “You’re so immature,” would somehow appear to catch what was about to go down.

There was a buzz, an electricity, that had everyone on edge waiting impatiently for the final bell.

That’s what it’s going to be like waiting for the main event of UFC 244 on Nov. 2 at Madison Square Garden in New York when Nate Diaz meets Jorge Masvidal in the underground dream fight come true: No matter how good the undercard, no matter how many stars are on the bill, everyone is going to be checking their watches, anxiously waiting for Nate and Jorge.

This is the second year in a row the UFC has struggled to find a main event for its annual trek to “The World’s Most Famous Arena.” For a while last year, it looked like a bout featuring Sijara Eubanks would be the main event at MSG.

Dana White finally settled on a heavyweight title fight between Daniel Cormier and Derrick Lewis for the main event of UFC 230, but that bout never really resonated. It was the kind of fight that may have been OK as a main event in, oh, Tampa, or even Houston, but certainly not in New York.

For a while, it seemed things might turn out even worse for this year’s trek. Light heavyweight champion Jon Jones might have made sense for the card, but there was no opponent available who made sense for him for a card of this magnitude.

The folks at Madison Square Garden would have been thrilled to have the return of Conor McGregor on the show, but the UFC’s biggest star finds himself in an odd place. Diaz didn’t have much interest in a rubber match, and called out Masvidal rather than McGregor after an impressive win over Anthony Pettis at UFC 241.

Tony Ferguson wasn’t interested in the slot because he wanted the winner of Saturday’s lightweight title main event between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin PoirierFrankie Edgar expressed interest in fighting McGregor, but after losing to Max Holloway at UFC 240, Edgar has committed to going down to bantamweight rather than back up to lightweight.

Now, maybe Holloway and McGregor could hook up in a rematch of their bout from Boston in 2013, but that would be another jump in weight.

The Diaz-Masvidal fight just made too much sense. Fans were dying to see it, the volume of trash talk and sheer lunacy that will come out of the fighters’ mouths will easily promote it and it figures to be a terrific fight.

This is how the UFC should always matchmake. You don’t always have to have a title fight on a card when you have a fight that is going to get people as excited and generate as much interest among both fans and media as this one.

They’re not the most technical fighters, nor are they the strongest or the most athletic. Between them, they have 24 losses in 78 fights.

But do you think that matters even a little to the people who lit up social media with glee when they awakened Saturday to the news that the bout for the BMF title — “Baddest Motherf-----” — had been made?

The late Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson made his way into the public consciousness not because of his bouts in the UFC, Bellator or EliteXC, but because of backyard brawls he participated in that eventually got millions of views on YouTube. That’s where Masvidal also got his start.

This is the bout with no political correctness, no heartwarming backstory and no implications within the welterweight division.

This is a fight between two guys who love to fight, and who badly want to fight each other.

Bill Cardille, who did the play-by-play for the old “Studio Wrestling,” series promoted by the legendary Bruno Sammartino, used to say that wrestling was the sport “Where anything can happen, usually does and probably will.”

That’s the perfect description of Diaz-Masvidal.

We know from their histories, anything can happen.

Even better, it probably will.

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