HEYDORN’S TAKE: Diaz vs. Woodley would be worth all the annoying and painful drama

BY ZACK HEYDORN, MMATorch Contributor

The conflicting news surrounding the possibility of Nate Diaz vs. Tyron Woodley has more drama within it than a bad Lindsay Lohan movie.

On Tuesday while answering questions during a media lunch, Dana White addressed the fight rumors by saying, “One of our attorneys here started playing matchmaker and — he has a good rapport with the Diaz brothers — and he basically said [to Nate Diaz], ‘What if you could fight Tyron Woodley?’ Me and Sean (Shelby) were like, ‘How does he deserve to fight Tyron Woodley? There’s a f*cking list of guys that are waiting to fight Tyron Woodley and this dude’s gonna fight … what are you talking about? So he kind of went off the reservation a little bit and started playing matchmaker. That’s why you started hearing Woodley saying, ‘I got offered a fight with Nate Diaz,’ and we’re like, ‘No, there was never a fight.’ So there was really never an offer for Woodley vs. Diaz. That’s not true.”

On Wednesday, Tyron Woodley responded to White via MMAFighting.com by saying “Delusional Dana constantly demotes me as a fighter when the job is to promote his fighters, especially champions. Why would I get in camp, and why would Nate give a 15 million dollar purse request if there was no fight? It’s obvious they haven’t found their blockbuster headliner yet. This was a reality, and they know it. The inability to come to financial terms with Nate killed it.”

I can see why Dana White would lie. It’s petty, but he doesn’t want the UFC to appear as if they lost a financial battle against one of their rogue fighters. Woodley doesn’t have much incentive to lie at all. That said, who I believe is telling the truth and who you believe is telling the truth is meaningless at this point. The fight already has marketable drama surrounding it and Diaz himself isn’t even in the fray yet. If this fight comes to fruition at any point in time, additional Mean Girls like drama will circulate it with critics in every corner decrying it as a money grab. At times that drama will be painful, but in the end the fight is going to be worth that pain.

Why? First and foremost, Nate Diaz will be back in the octagon. This is intriguing for many reasons; the main one being whether or not Diaz can be a blockbuster draw without Conor McGregor. Diaz is a major UFC star, but that stardom has run parallel with his involvement with McGregor. Before those fights, Diaz wasn’t the draw he’s claiming to be now. Him returning to the octagon gives himself the chance to prove otherwise and Tyron Woodley would be a formidable opponent to do it with. In addition, Diaz has been out for over a year. Him coming back for a fight is newsworthy given how long he’s been away.

Second, Tyron Woodley needs to show that he’s an entertaining champion. His title defenses against Stephen Thompson and Demian Maia hurt his stock as a top draw for the UFC. The fights were arguably the worst of the year. They were boring and lacked anything substantial for fans to get behind. Against Nate Diaz, Woodley has a chance to alter that narrative about him. Diaz talks a lot, he has an exciting style, and by just sharing the octagon with him, Woodley will be able to attach himself to that entertaining aura. That’s important because we know Woodley isn’t that kind of guy on his own. He needs to be in order to be treated like a top star and by riding Diaz’s wave, he’ll appear in the light that UFC needs to see him in.

Lastly, the fight itself will be a legitimate battle. Diaz and Woodley contrast greatly in style and watching those styles collide will be entertaining. Woodley’s strategy is to stay far away from the aggressor role and Diaz is the exact opposite. When Woodley fought Maia and Thompson he was able to successfully run from aggressive situations and control the fights. Woodley won those fights so the strategy was solid even though he got criticized for it. It’s worked for him, but that type of style is why he isn’t viewed in the same bright light by Dana White like other UFC champions are.

Nate Diaz will pull Woodley out of that comfort zone. Diaz won’t let Woodley fight that fight. Inside the octagon, he will pursue Woodley relentlessly as the aggressor and force him to fight straight away and face to face. That may hurt Woodley’s chances of winning, but it’ll help his stock in terms of selling himself as a fighter in order to secure the biggest fights possible with the largest paydays. Regardless of the outcome, seeing Diaz bring an aggressive side out of Tyron Woodley will be a memorable occasion within UFC history.

White and Woodley can go back and forth and bicker like children all they want, but in the end one question will cause more drama than those high schoolers. Should this fight happen? That will be the passionate debate point amongst critics if the fight ever becomes a reality.

From a logistical standpoint, the answer is no. There is an exuberant amount of other contenders that are ahead of Diaz in the Woodley line that will unjustifiably get jumped if Diaz gets the call. From a business and entertainment standpoint, the answer is yes. Winning isn’t everything, but making money is and this fight will generate loads of cash. This debate and drama will go on and on until they step into the octagon. Bring that drama on. In the end, it’ll be well worth it for us all.

NOW CHECK OUT HEYDORN’S PREVIOUS TAKE: The top five things UFC should be thankful for in 2017

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