There will not be a title fight at UFC 244, but the evening’s headliner will nonetheless be one of the year’s most anticipated matches.
UFC president Dana White informed ESPN on Saturday that a five-round welterweight clash between Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal will serve as the main event for the Nov. 2 card at Madison Square Garden in New York.
"It's one of those fights that is fun, interesting, fans are into it, you want to see for five rounds -- yet it's too big to be a fight night," White told ESPN. "So we made it a pay-per-view. I will end up stacking this card with killer fights. The main event will be those two.”
A 170-pound title tilt between Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington was initially targeted for UFC 244, but according to White, negotiations for that bout fell apart. Per the report, the promotion was unable to come to terms with Covington for the fight. The title bout was then offered to Masvidal, but then the Las Vegas-based organization could not reach a deal with Usman, the reigning champion.
The UFC also reportedly reached out to Leon Edwards about facing Usman and even threatened to strip Usman of his belt. Regardless, White was compelled to move forward when negotiations for a title fight at MSG reached a stalemate.
"That fight completely fell apart between those two [Usman and Covington]. ... Remember this, I put on fights for a living. That's what I do," White said. "When I go out and tell you we're doing this guy versus this guy, this guy's next -- if that doesn't happen, it's not because of me. ... What guys say publicly and what goes on behind closed doors are two different things. One thing about me, I don't wait for anybody. I don't care how big of a star you are. I have a fight at MSG. People want to go buy tickets and we need to get moving.”
White added that there will not be another championship fight on the UFC 244 bill below Diaz vs. Masvidal.
"I would never put a title fight underneath this. There won't be a title fight [at MSG],” White said.
Diaz returned from a three-year hiatus at UFC 241, where he earned an entertaining unanimous verdict over Anthony Pettis for his third win in his last four outings. ESPN reports that Diaz passed all of his drug screenings in relation to the event.
A veteran of 47 professional fights, Masvidal’s stock is currently at an all-time high after scoring back-to-back knockout victories over Darren Till and Ben Askren in his last two Octagon appearances. His flying knee finish of Askren took just five seconds, a new UFC record.