Nate Diaz and Tony Ferguson, UFC 279
Nate Diaz and Tony Ferguson, UFC 279 ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Gabriel Gonzalez/Cageside Press

After one of the wildest weeks in UFC history, Nate Diaz and Tony Ferguson will now face each other in hopes of writing different chapters for their respective careers at UFC 279.

Let’s address the obvious first.

Nate Diaz, after more than a decade in the UFC, was never going to accept any tomfoolery after Khamzat Chimaev missed weight. Ahead of what many pundits believe will be his finale in the Octagon, the Stockton superstar was focused on making the best business decision as he moves on to other ventures.  Whether that be in boxing where he could have a serious payday against Jake Paul or any other litany of bouts as the celebrities in combat sports era continues to grow, Diaz was always going to set himself up in the best position to take full advantage of it.  That was never going in the form of taking on an opponent who missed weight after he was already going to be the bigger athlete in the cage.

Since winning The Ultimate Fighter in 2007 and making his Octagon debut, Diaz has only fought for a UFC title once.  But his career and popularity has never been about wins and losses.  Saturday, in its own unique way, is about celebrating the approach he has brought to the game that has endeared him to the masses.  Carrying the torch from his brother Nick, Diaz’s blend of boxing, jiu-jitsu, and attitude in the cage have made him a household name.  This was never more evident than in 2016 when his shocking short-notice upset of Conor McGregor turned him into one of the sport’s most recognizable faces and it is that person whom the fans are tuning in to see regardless of all the talk that has come inn the past few months.

Saturday feels like a similar finale for Tony Ferguson under the circumstances.  The late change-up has paired up two of the most beloved personalities and exciting fighters of the lightweight division (though the fight is at welterweight) and the excitement of the fan base for the new bout is from their celebration of what the two men have done and will bring to the cage when they collide.   But while Diaz has had his flowers, Ferguson’s journey seemed to be cursed as he reached the last leg of the race.  He is the victim of the preeminent fight that never was as injuries and even an entire global pandemic cancelled his fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov which at the time paired the 1A and 1B of the weight class.

But this was not set to be the swan song of Ferguson.  With a fresh coat of paint at welterweight, the hope has been that not cutting the weight to 155 pounds could help to add a final chapter to a career that has made him one of the division’s most beloved individuals.  He also possesses the advantage of similar age and more activity over Diaz as opposed to giving up youth to his previously scheduled opponent Li Jingliang.  If ever there was a chance to recapture his magic after a difficult four fight skid, Saturday is it.

The biggest x-factor after the wild turn of events this week is that Diaz has been training several more weeks than Ferguson as the latter was a later addition to the card.  Amongst the benefits of more time is conditioning should the fight go into deep waters and often timing and rhythm are dialed in sooner.  Diaz’s ability to maintain range could be a nightmare for Ferguson should the former interim champion be unable to close the distance to use his unorthodox attack of spins and elbows.  That said, should Ferguson be able to get in to work the body and the legs, Diaz’s movement and offense could become compromised.

For Diaz, the life of a promoter who has a slew of lucrative exhibition matches across combat sports awaits him.  As for his time in the UFC, a spot in the Hall of Fame in the future is expected to be the last page for him.  For Ferguson, a bout with Conor McGregor next year could be likely as he looks to pursue the best possible style match-ups.





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