377 Days and Counting…
…is how long it has been since Nate Diaz’s last fight. The winner of The Ultimate Fighter Season 5, Lightweight Title Challenger, eight-time FOTN and seven-time POTN bonus holder, Nate Diaz has been begging for a fight since “Stockton Slapping” his way to winning his 5-Round battle (in the eyes of the fans, if not the judges) against Leon Edwards last July.
So, why has the only fight we have seen from the Stockton Native in the last twelve months been Diaz vs. the UFC? It’s complicated. Diaz is in a very unique situation. He is one of the most sought-after fighters by other promotions, who have undoubtedly been whispering him crazy, stupid offers to fight outside of the UFC for God only knows how long.
Additionally, the Diaz brothers have both been on Jake Paul’s “Hit-List” since August last year, a bout in which Diaz would certainly earn PPV-Points, something he doesn’t earn in most of his UFC bouts. However, Diaz is also 37 years old. This poses a problem, because every day that Diaz vs. the UFC continues, he is a depreciating asset.
However, this is Diaz’s last fight on his current contract. Originally an eight-fight deal, it was extended by three prior to UFC 244. The UFC wants him to resign desperately, according to Ariel Helwani, as they understand how valuable he would be in bringing attention to other promotions. Promotions that would be willing to pay Diaz much more than the UFC currently are.
So, how does the UFC have Diaz effectively in a legal back mount? Due to the ongoing Anti-Trust Class Action Lawsuit against the UFC (Cung Le, et al. v. Zuffa, LLC), we actually know quite a bit about the UFC’s contract structure. The lawsuit alleges that the UFC created a monopsony by crafting their fighter contracts in such a way that the promotion created an anti-competitive environment. They argue that the UFC accomplished this through their acquisitions of rival promotions Strikeforce, Pride, and the WEC to name a few.
This ballooned the UFC roster, with most of the fighters who joined the promotion signing very similar contracts. By absorbing so much of the talent in the market and their overwhelming prevalence as the industry leader, thanks in no small part to The Ultimate Fighter, this allowed them to keep fighter pay artificially low.
These contracts prevented many fighters from ever testing free agency in other promotions in three main ways:
- Long Term Exclusivity – Prior to 2017, when the lawsuit was filed, there were no end dates for contracts, simply the number of fights. This means that fighters who signed contracts prior to this date (including Diaz) must fight out their contracts before being able to fight for another promotion. The UFC also maintains exclusive negotiation for three months after a fighter does fight out their contract, and the right to match any offer for up to a year.
- Coercion – The lawsuit alleges that fighters were coerced into signing unfavorable contracts with the UFC under threat of being put on worse parts of the card.
- Acquisition – As mentioned before, there was (and remains) very little mainstream opposition for MMA fighters outside of the UFC. Even more, Bellator and the PFL feel like “B-Leagues”, while others like LFA and Cage Warriors can sometimes feel like feeder leagues for the UFC.
The UFC points to the 140+ trades between the two promotions in recent years, as well as Eddie Alvarez and Demetrious Johnson being defeated outside of the promotion as evidence that there is other talent out there, but that the best is in the UFC.
Nate Diaz Is Still Looking for a Fight
In return for their exclusive rights, the UFC is obligated to offer every fighter on the roster three fights per year. However, if that year passes, and the fighter has been offered three fights, the UFC can extend the fighter’s contract, or cut them for inactivity, an edit that was applied after the lawsuit was filed.
We know that Diaz was offered Khamzat Chimaev, who alleges that Diaz was offered the bout ten times in the past year. Diaz has more recently said that he is interested in the bout, but that Khamzat has been unable to compete due to visa issues and being overweight. There was also a belief that the UFC was keeping Diaz on ice, believing that a Conor McGregor rematch would be possible this summer, but that is now looking more like January than July.
Diaz has also been willing to fight Michael Chandler, who has been vocal about how difficult the weight cut to 155 is for him, a problem that Diaz has also faced. Diaz vs. Dustin Poirier is another highly-anticipated bout, and according to Ariel Helwani, the UFC would make that fight immediately if Diaz would re-sign with the promotion.
It is easy to see how Diaz could feel strangled by the promotion, being stuck on the same contract for the last decade. Dana even gave Diaz the green light to go and fight Paul on a podcast earlier this week as long as he completes his contract first.
Jake Paul has even offered to fight Diaz in the UFC for free under MMA rules, just to get him out of his contract. However, even that fight looks highly unlikely to happen any time soon, for a plethora of reasons, the least of which being that Dana White would have to accept Jake Paul’s terms on fighter pay and healthcare. Paul has also been confirmed to be fighting Tommy Fury on August 6th. Kevin Holland has also been extremely vocal about saying farewell to Diaz, which is seemingly gaining traction, per Holland’s recent Tweet.
Featured image credit to Embed from Getty Images
Featured image credit to Embed from Getty Images