NEW YORK — Jorge Masvidal was holding two slices of pizza in his right hand, the one that was bruised and swollen from slamming into Nate Diaz’s skull. His hands, he said, needed some rest and rehab.
“A little jacked up,” he said.
This surprised no one who watched him unleash 15 minutes of violence on Diaz on Saturday night. Their main event bout at UFC 244 was stopped when a doctor refused to let Diaz begin the fourth round on account of a deep gash over his right eye that was gushing blood and parting skin.
Masvidal called the fight his “Picasso” and could only lament that the doctor stopped him from finishing it. “I almost got to paint it,” Masvidal said. Diaz saw it as a too-soon stoppage since his eye wasn’t getting any worse. He wanted an immediate rematch, which Masvidal initially granted. “Let’s run it back,” he said.
The crowd booed the decision at the time and UFC president Dana White was initially upset, only to change his mind once he saw Diaz’s eye.
“His eyebrow was flipped over,” White said. “The reason we love Nate Diaz is he’s so tough and durable and everything else but, yeah, it didn’t look good.”
The end notwithstanding, it was a glorious victory for Masvidal. Diaz is a huge name and respected opponent. President Donald Trump watched cageside from the second row. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, a fellow Miami hero, wrapped the UFC’s “Baddest Mother[expletive]” belt around Masvidal’s waist, right there in the middle of Madison Square Garden.
All this for a 34-year-old with a 35-13 record. Masvidal became a fighter brawling alongside Kimbo Slice in Miami backyards. His pro career prior to this year was known for losing split decisions and never quite getting any momentum — win three, lose two, win two, lose one.
Two years ago, almost to the day, he got beat definitively by Stephen Thompson in this same building. He slumped out of the cage as just another guy; lots of heart, not enough wins.
That was then. Now, on the strength of an epic 2019 where he won three fights, he’s a breakout star. This one was particularly special because it came over Diaz and came after Masvidal so maxed out pre-fight mainstream publicity on ESPN, appearing almost constantly on the network.
“It’s [expletive] awesome,” he noted.
Indeed. As he said that, it was approaching 3 a.m. (4 if not for daylight savings) on Sunday morning. The high of the fight was wearing off and Masvidal was looking for new ways to cope with the pain and amplify the victory.
He took a pour from a bottle of Recuerdo brand rum, which he swears he can crush without getting a hangover. He basked in the beauty of the BMF belt, which he never has to defend or relinquish since it was just a one-off for the Diaz fight.
And he ate his pizza, just not in any normal way. His two slices were stacked on top of each other, with the topping sides touching and the crusts serving as a bread of sorts.
“Good pizza,” Masvidal said.
Actually it was old and cold but Masvidal didn’t care.
He was starving. For food. For money. For whatever comes next in his now skyrocketing UFC career, an overnight sensation decades in the making.
“It’s on my terms now,” he promised.
In the Octagon, Masvidal agreed to an immediate rematch. Diaz was pumping that idea post-fight, noting that a doctor stopped him, not Masvidal.
“It doesn’t make it official,” Diaz suggested.
With his strong cardio and history of championship round surges, Diaz theorized that the fourth and fifth were where he was going to turn the tables. He said Masvidal was getting tired, something Masvidal scoffed at.
Plus, Diaz said, Masvidal was already for it and Diaz himself has a long history of granting rematches, most famously with Conor McGregor, and not granting it would be a sign of diminished character.
“If someone else decided the fight was over, then I don’t feel all Baddest Mother[expletive]-ery,” Diaz said.
White isn’t as excited about that, however. He thought the fight was lopsided, thinks Diaz may be out a while healing up and sees other potential business for his new star.
Masvidal just wants money so he promised he’d fight Diaz eventually because Diaz sells pay-per-views like almost no one else in UFC history. Masvidal kept punching up, though.
McGregor, the pay day white whale who he’d enjoy a massive size advantage over?
“You know what I’ll do to that little dude?” Masvidal asked, before referencing some of McGregor’s recent legal issues. “You see he punches old people in the face because that’s the only fight he can win.”
How about an even bigger deal, like a McGregor-Floyd Mayweather style crossover boxing match for the real money.
“I can box,” Masvidal said. “I can hit hard.”
At this point, with the former journeyman now on the verge of fighter of the year, why not speak it to the universe and see what comes back.
The BMF of the UFC was eating pizza and drinking rum and joking about the entire thing. What a night in New York City. Why not throw all the names out there? Maybe, Masvidal figured, Alvarez needs some help selling fights and could use the money he could bring.
“I heard we killed him on PPVs,” he said, laughing.
About then he asked for two more slices of pizza he could make into a sandwich. They were quickly fetched, because it’s good to be freshly minted king and even better to be the BMF around.
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