Exploring the uncertain future of Nick Diaz and Jon Jones

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UFC 266’s main event and co-main event featured big wins for defending champions Alexander Volkanovski and Valentina Shevchenko, but the real stories of the weekend were Nick Diaz, making a comeback after a long absence of the UFC, and Jon Jones, who after entering his fight into the UFC Hall of Fame, was arrested Friday night. Marc Raimondi, Brett Okamoto and Jeff Wagenheim react to the weekend and discuss the options available to the two fighters.

Raimondi: UFC 266 was a fantastic card. Alexander Volkanovski battled a ton of adversity to beat an extremely tough Brian Ortega and successfully defend his UFC featherweight title. The winner of the November 13 fight between Max Holloway and Yair Rodriguez should be next for him. Valentina Shevchenko was once again flawless in a title defense against Lauren Murphy. Eventually, I hope we see her again against Amanda Nunes. But for now, it’s likely she’ll be waiting for the next flyweight contender.

We have an idea of ​​the future of Volkanovsky and Shevchenko. But what about the one and only Nick Diaz? I wrote on Saturday night that I thought Diaz looked good in a third round TKO loss to Robbie Lawler, arguably better than expected. However, I’m not sure I want to see Diaz fight again. He was noticeably slower in middle weights and at the age of 38. Brett, what do you think of Diaz’s performance against Lawler? Are you up for another Diaz fight in the UFC?

Okamoto: I had mixed emotions, Marc. On the one hand, Diaz has been out for six years and explicitly told us in advance that he really doesn’t want to fight on Saturday. On the other hand, once the fight started, I saw skill. I saw a guy who can still be competitive in proper fights in the UFC. I then spoke to a few people in his camp, who told me he had a smile on his face and that he will probably do it again. If we see Diaz fighting again, it would be best to see him again soon. I saw a guy on Saturday who, if he fights again in the next six months, would probably look better than him. But matchmaking is the key. If he’s paired with the right opponent, I support seeing Diaz fight again.

Wagenheim: You got it right, Brett, it’s all about matchmaking. And related to that, it’s about Diaz recognizing where he stands in his life. He did a great job demonstrating that awareness at the end of Saturday’s fight, which might have seemed underwhelming to some fans. For me, it was a gratifying sign that Nick knew he had given every damn ounce of what he had to give and that the fight was over. In the prep, however, remember when Diaz said whoever paired him with Lawler was an “idiot” and should have been with Kamaru Usman? Can you imagine

I would love to see Diaz compete again in a proper fight, but I fear the worst. I hope the UFC doesn’t allow some tough kids to make a name for themselves on Diaz. And I’m even more worried – in a time when people pay to watch YouTubers fight, MMA guys ‘box’ and old legends like Evander Holyfield make us sad – that we might get to see a Diaz show.

Raimondi: I agree with both of you that Diaz can always fight against suitable opponents. The question I’m asking myself is, who the hell is this? Is it an average weight? A rising welterweight? I have no interest in seeing Diaz against a near-prime star like Jorge Masvidal or a hungry young monster like Khamzat Chimaev. But the UFC isn’t exactly the place to go if you’re looking for supportive games. It’s sinking or swimming around these parts. This is where my concern lies. So, Brett, what’s Diaz’s next fight like?

Okamoto: In my column the other night, I pitched the idea for Ben Askren, which should give you an indication of where I’m at with Diaz matchmaking. Of course, Askren is retired. But until last weekend, Diaz was also retired. I think Askren could be fun, sell the fight and not represent a super dangerous opponent who would deal a lot of damage against Diaz.

Raimondi: I like where you are with Askren’s idea, Brett. I’ll also be throwing a name, although it’s no longer on the UFC roster: Demian Maia. I wouldn’t hate this middleweight fight. Two legends.

Wagenheim: I have no other names to name – unless we are talking about fighters who should not be paired with Diaz, in which case I could recite most of the UFC roster. It’s not a hit on Diaz. Six and a half years is a long time to be absent, especially at 38. Maybe there is one last magical act left in King of 209. I’ll watch for sure. Maybe by holding my breath, though.

Raimondi: Speaking of holding our breath, there’s someone else I want to address: Jon Jones. We know, of course, that he was arrested Friday in Las Vegas for tampering with a vehicle, felony and the offense of domestic violence. It happened just hours after he attended a ceremony in which his legendary 2013 fight with Alexander Gustafsson was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. What is the UFC doing even with Jones at this point? He had countless opportunities. Can you imagine if Jones was the UFC champion when this happened?

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Jon Jones plans to return to the UFC in the second quarter of 2022 and would like to face winner Francis Ngannou against Ciryl Gane.

Okamoto: This is a good question, but also an irrelevant question. The UFC doesn’t have much to say about Jon Jones’ career right now. With his arrest, Jones’ eligibility to fight really doesn’t depend on the UFC. Before all of that happened, I thought Jones would fight twice in heavyweight in 2022. And I think despite the current circumstances, that’s still a possibility. In a strange sense, we’re where we always are with Jones. He’s talented, maybe the best fighter in the world. But his personal life could derail it all.

Bottom line, though: if I had to guess if Jon Jones is fighting for the UFC heavyweight title in 2022, I would say yes, from this point on I think he does.

Wagenheim: To me, the idea of ​​Jones fighting for the heavyweight title anytime soon, in light of this latest arrest, is unsettling and unthinkable, which is why I wouldn’t be shocked to see that happen. MMA is a spectacle of unsettling and unthinkable twists and turns, isn’t it? I mean, a year ago we thought it was certain that “Bones” would be a challenge for the belt, and look where we are now.

Speaking only of Jones’ fighting career, any bargaining power he might have thought he had with the UFC is gone. If the legal system allows Jones to return to the fight, he could just take any fight he gave and do it at the cost of the UFC. And if heavyweight Jon Jones behaves like light heavyweight Jon Jones, there’s no cap for the guy. But again, no too slippery ground either.

Raimondi: I don’t know how much that slows down Jones. I have spoken to several Las Vegas attorneys over the past few days, and based on the charges alone, they are pretty sure Jones won’t be serving any sort of long jail sentence.

Now we know at least a little more about what happened on Thursday night and early Friday morning – and it’s far from good for Jones. It makes me a little uncomfortable talking about Jones’ athletic career when he is accused of domestic violence. This is the reality we are in, however, and people are invested in Jones as one of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport, if not the greatest.

Is there a way Jones can change his life? I know he keeps saying he’s better, but these bad decisions keep piling up.

Okamoto: It’s a question we’ve been answering for most of the past decade. Jones has so far managed to pull himself out of these personal issues and continue his career. And at the end of the day, I suspect he will do it here. Just as far as his career inside the Octagon goes, I imagine Jones will always be fighting on the road and still has a good chance of becoming a heavyweight champion. His prospects in the Octagon are the same, as long as he remains eligible to compete.

Its heritage is already complicated. But an incident like this, he will follow. It’s definitely part of Jon Jones’ greatest story. It has been and continues to be very sad that the best fighter the sport has ever produced can’t seem to beat his own demons. Like many of you, I want to see Jones compete and I want him to be a part of the UFC, but some of the alleged details of this case are troubling and his priority must clearly be his personal life right now and not n ‘no matter which. UFC Title.

Wagenheim: Jones’ legacy as a fighter isn’t what’s important. His legacy as a man is in tatters, and the greatest thing he can do for himself right now is to put every ounce of energy into growing up. Over the years we have all heard him talk about his issues and about improving as a person. He speaks with the best of intentions. And then, time and time again, he has shown himself incapable of sustaining that kindness.

Jones clearly can’t clean up his act on his own. It’s time for him to surround himself with people who will keep him at a higher level. If the latest allegations are true, it will be harder than ever to side with Jones. But in his ongoing battle against his worst tendencies, I will support for him – not for Jon Jones the mixed martial artist, not for the sake of a sport that lacks its greatest fighter or for the coffers of the UFC, but for the man’s family, who have suffered enough.


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