Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz didn’t really solve who the “baddest motherf**ker” on the planet was at UFC 244, but on a historic night built around a fictitious championship, they inexplicably, somehow solved the UFC’s pay-per-view problem.
Not all bad motherf**kers wear capes, but that doesn’t make them any less of a hero.
There isn’t a word in existence that can truly encapsulate the euphoria from simply witnessing two of the most aesthetically pleasing fighters coming to blows in a pay-per-view headliner at Madison Square Garden. Granted, the early third-round stoppage was super annoying, but an athlete’s safety takes precedence in a sport where the price of entertainment is sometimes paid in blood.
For too long, the UFC has hammered home the pay-per-view module of forcibly shoehorning title fights into the main event slot. Sometimes they hit home runs with fan-pleasing bouts that come together organically, but other times, however, there are title attractions that don’t feel worth the hefty price of admission.
The BMF bout proved a UFC title isn’t necessary as a pay-per-view headliner as long as fans get the fights they want to see. Diaz literally talked the concept into existence and had the entire fight community eating out of the palm of his hand. Of course, he needed the perfect dance partner to complete the spectacle.
So he called out Masvidal.
There was no manufactured drama in the lead-up to the inevitable showdown at UFC 244. Both Diaz and Masvidal stayed true to themselves in every single on-air appearance, and the buzz surrounding the fight never waned in interest.
That isn’t to suggest grudge matches don’t have their place in prizefighting. Everyone loves a good personal feud when it makes sense, but fight fans also aren’t stupid. The sleight of hand is selling a story in the lead-up to a real competition between real competitors.
For Diaz and Masvidal, the story centered around two often forgotten journeymen that never got the respect they deserved for their contributions to the sport. Couple that narrative with their electric fighting styles and fans were going to buy into the idea whether it was for an actual championship belt or not.
There are few instances where the UFC will ever capture that sort of lightning in a bottle, but there are also plenty of great fights out there fans would latch onto with the right marketing behind them. A pay-per-view main event shouldn’t exist only as a slot to fill with some random title bout, particularly when fans are paying a pretty penny to see it.
They should exist as a service to the fans, along with being utilized as an opportunity to expand on great storytelling to help build new stars. Diaz was referred to as a non-needle mover before his non-championship bout with Conor McGregor.
And then he became a star.
Although Masvidal’s star status was burgeoning heading into UFC 244, that event alone signaled his arrival as a legitimate superstar in MMA. Great storytelling and matchmaking takes time, money and mind-power, but the results can be staggering.
Ahead of the fight card, UFC President Dana White claimed the bout was trending as the “biggest event” the company has “ever done with ESPN.” It reportedly had the second-biggest gate behind the UFC’s promotional debut at Madison Square Garden back in 2016.
Even after the BMF title goes away—and it must go away—the UFC should at least cling to its concept for future pay-per-view main events. There are times when fans would much rather shell out their hard-earned cash for an intriguing five-round style match-up rather than a championship fight. Not all title fights are meant to be pay-per-view headliners, and quite frankly, UFC on ESPN could probably benefit from some free championship bouts.
Back in May, White did make a rebuttal to the suggestion of watered-down fight cards by telling fans to simply stop watching the fights they didn’t want to see.
EXACTLY There are 42-44 fights a year plus The Contender series. If u don’t like one of the cards don’t watch it. Pretty simple
— Dana White (@danawhite) June 1, 2019
As for the actual BMF belt, it was created to be a one-off trophy unique to the fight between Diaz and Masvidal. Unless it’s a rematch featuring those two fighters, that belt should remain locked behind Masvidal’s trophy case as a memento of the greatest year of his professional MMA career. He has long been one of the sport’s best-kept secrets, and that belt symbolizes the awakening.
The UFC should also want to shift the attention back to the actual welterweight title being defended by Kamaru Usman against Colby Covington on December 14—a fight Masvidal should have his eyes on with vested interest.
It’s a return to business as usual after the delectable, butter-laden popcorn treat of the BMF title concept, leaving each of us to stew in the savory discussion of how an impromptu non-title fight meant more than the actual UFC title.
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 11/7/2019.