UFC 244 already a hot ticket as Nate Diaz, Jorge Masvidal hit New York to hype bout for 'BMF' title

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Jorge Masvidal squares off with Nate Diaz at a news conference for the UFC 244 mixed martial arts event, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, in New York. Masvidal is scheduled to fight Diaz Saturday, Nov. 2 at Madison Square Garden. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

There wasn’t a three-piece and a soda, nor a Stockton slap, either delivered or threatened on Thursday during a 30-minute news conference in New York to formally announce Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz would headline UFC 244 on Nov. 2 at Madison Square Garden.

There were, as might be expected with UFC president Dana White between those two, a lot of F-bombs dropped, but there was little of the tension that will undoubtedly exist when they make the walk to the Octagon on fight night to battle for the, yep, Baddest Mother F----- belt that White is creating.

The questions from the media in attendance were beyond dreadful, and put a damper on what had the potential to be an explosive and entertaining night.

The best part of the approximately half-hour event came when White was explaining how the BMF belt came to be. It began, White said, during Diaz’s post-fight interview in Anaheim in August.

“When Nate did his interview that night, he said, ‘This is for the baddest mother f----r in the game,’ ” White recalled. Before he could go on, Diaz tapped him on the arm and White, who is very hard of hearing, leaned over and put his ear near Diaz’s mouth.

White then beamed and, laughing, said, “He was defending the baddest mother f----r in the game.”

Tickets don’t officially go on sale for UFC 244 until Friday, but White said the UFC sold 10,000 in the presale, an indication of the interest level in the bout. White said he hadn’t had as many celebrities ask him for tickets since the 2017 boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor.

The event puts a pair of major combat sports events on opposite sides of the country on the same night. The Diaz-Masvidal main event was announced first, but several days later, Golden Boy Promotions announced a boxing match featuring Canelo Alvarez and Sergey Kovalev would headline a card streamed on DAZN that night at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas.

When that fight was announced, Yahoo Sports asked Golden Boy president Eric Gomez if he was concerned he’d be splitting the audience by going against the UFC pay-per-view. There is also a boxing match on ESPN headlined by a super featherweight title fight between Miguel Berchelt and Jason Sosa that night.

Gomez said he was concerned enough to talk to Golden Boy CEO Oscar De La Hoya, who urged him to move ahead with the bout. Gomez referred to Masvidal by one of his burgeoning new nicknames, “Street Jesus,” as he answered the question.

“Listen, man, I know that’s a busy, busy night, but we did our research and we looked at everything,” Gomez said. “Nate Diaz is fighting ‘Street Jesus’ in New York that night. We know that. We looked at everything. I mentioned it to Oscar. He told me to just get it done. He believes in this fight and in Canelo and in the matchup. He told me just to get it done and not worry about ‘Street Jesus’ or the [college] football or anything else, because Canelo is a star. We’re confident this is a marquee event and fight fans will respond to it.”

Jorge Masvidal set a UFC record at UFC 239 in Las Vegas by knocking out Ben Askren in five seconds. (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA Today Sports)

White and De La Hoya have a contentious relationship and he said during the news conference that Golden Boy would be “f------ nuts,” to have Canelo-Kovalev in the ring at the same time Diaz and Masvidal were fighting.

Later, he aimed fire at De La Hoya for choosing to go on Nov. 2 knowing the UFC main event that night.

“We sold 10,000 tickets the first day at Madison Square Garden,” White said. “Fans and the media love this fight. This will be a massive pay-per-view event for us. Oscar is one of the absolute dumbest guys in the game, and I love it.”

The crowd who attended the news conference Thursday was aching to erupt. At one point, a reporter taunted Diaz for being a vegan. A few seconds later, Diaz leaned into the mic and said, “The Terminator was a vegan, mother f-----.”

Masvidal, who donned a white double-breasted suit with a bright red shirt and an open collar like Tony Montana in “Scarface,” smiled throughout and clearly enjoyed the spotlight. This is the biggest fight of his life, and he got it by scoring sensational knockout wins earlier in the year over Darren Till and Ben Askren.

The win over Askren was a flying knee at UFC 239 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas that ended the bout in five seconds. Masvidal said Diaz “was a different caliber guy” than either Till or Askren.

Still, he was as confident as could be.

“I’m coming to fight with everything I’ve got and I’m going to give it my all,” he said.

The winner will get a BMF belt that White said the UFC design team created.

Across the country, Alvarez will be fighting for Kovalev’s WBO light heavyweight title belt which, if he gets it, would make him only the 20th man in boxing history and the fourth Mexican to win titles in four weight classes.

That didn’t seem to bother either Diaz or Masvidal. When Alvarez’s name was mentioned, almost in unison they said, “Who?”

This is the 500th event in UFC history. For years, the UFC had to take a back seat to bigger and more popular events.

No more, though.

And with Diaz and Masvidal headlining, it has a show that can stand up to any boxing card that may go against it and succeed.

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