By James Corrigan/ Contributor NYSportsday
In the most scenic and modern venue ever to host a UFC press conference, the company took a trip back to a simpler time when fighters won glory in the cage rather than on the microphone.
The atmosphere at the Rooftop at Pier 17 in lower Manhattan Thursday evening for the square off between welterweight sluggers Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal was electric, as both men have won a considerable fan base through their entertaining fight style as well as their honesty outside the cage.
Diaz, who famously felled Conor McGregor in 2016 before losing a razor thin decision to the Irishman in what was then the most lucrative fight in UFC history, has staked his claim to the title of BMF, which after the B meaning baddest is an acronym which would better be explained by the likes of Samuel L. Jackson. Masvidal, after two signature wins in 2019 including the fastest knockout in UFC history, is fighting to obtain that title.
On this story and this story alone is the MMA leader building the upcoming UFC 244 at Madison Square Garden on November 2. No actual championship belt is up for grabs, a rarity in UFC pay-per-view main events, as the drawing power of Diaz and the anticipation of what could be the fight of the year is enough. But while it will be the UFC’s 500th event in its history, it feels much like a throwback to a time where fighters sold PPV buys with their ability rather than their talking skills.
As rowdy as the fans were on Pier 17, the majority of the press in attendance was even more so. Their questions delved into the outrageous, with Masvidal being asked what he would make Diaz “eat” in the cage (he took the high road, praising the Stockton, California native as being on a greater level than his previous opponents), and Diaz being asked if his vegan diet made him less tough, and if he and Masvidal would share a marijuana joint after the fight.
The fighters, both with deep respect for one another, didn’t take the bait for cheap heat, and stuck to their central message that the baddest man in the world will be determined between the two of them in the cage.
The lack of substance in the press conference tells a greater tale, however, for their isn’t much more to say about this matchup other than that it’s two tough fighters that want to beat each other up. In an era where buildups to UFC events largely resemble WWE antics, this storyline is a refreshing one. Diaz put it best in saying, “You can fight for phony belts, or you can fight to be the baddest m**********r in the game.”
This is the backdrop for the UFC’s fourth all-time event at the Mecca, and if this press conference was any indication, the substance of the event will not happen on a microphone, but inside the famed Octagon.