Debating the future of Nick Diaz and Jon Jones in MMA

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The key party and co-key function of UFC 266 showcased large victories for reigning champions Alexander Volkanovski and Valentina Shevchenko, but the authentic stories of the weekend were being Nick Diaz, making his return following a prolonged absence from the UFC, and Jon Jones, who soon after getting his battle inducted into the UFC Corridor of Fame, was arrested on Friday night. Marc Raimondi, Brett Okamoto and Jeff Wagenheim react to the weekend and talk about what choices lie in advance for both fighters.

Raimondi: UFC 266 was a great card. Alexander Volkanovski fought as a result of a ton of adversity to beat a supremely difficult Brian Ortega and productively protect his UFC featherweight title. The winner of the Nov. 13 combat in between Max Holloway and Yair Rodriguez really should be up coming for him. Valentina Shevchenko was flawless however again in a title protection towards Lauren Murphy. Eventually, I hope we will see her again versus Amanda Nunes. But for now it really is probably she’ll await the next contender at flyweight.

We have an concept what the future appears to be like like for each Volkanovski and Shevchenko. But what about the a single and only Nick Diaz? I wrote Saturday night time that I thought Diaz looked wonderful in a third-spherical TKO reduction to Robbie Lawler, arguably much better than envisioned. Even so, I’m just not certain I want to see Diaz fight again. He was noticeably slower at middleweight, and at the age of 38. Brett, what have been your views on Diaz’s functionality in opposition to Lawler? Are you into the notion of yet another Diaz fight in the UFC?

Okamoto: I had combined thoughts, Marc. On one particular hand, Diaz was out for 6 several years and explicitly explained to us beforehand he truly did not want to fight on Saturday. On the other hand, at the time the battle begun, I noticed skill. I saw a dude who can however be competitive in suitable fights in the UFC. I talked later on to a couple of men and women from his camp, who told me he experienced a smile on his encounter and he’ll likely do this again. If we do see Diaz combat once again, it would be finest if we see him yet again soon. I saw a person on Saturday who, if he fights yet again in the following 6 months, would most likely seem far better than he did. But the matchmaking is important. If he’s paired with the proper opponent, I support looking at Diaz fight yet again.

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Wagenheim: You nailed it, Brett, it is really all about the matchmaking. And associated to that, it really is about Diaz recognizing the place he stands in his everyday living. He did a fantastic career of demonstrating that recognition at the conclude of Saturday’s struggle, which to some admirers could possibly have felt anticlimactic. To me it was a gratifying indicator that Nick realized he had provided each and every damn ounce of what he had to give and the combat was in excess of. In the leadup, however, keep in mind when Diaz was expressing that whoever matched him with Lawler was an “fool” and that he should have been in with Kamaru Usman? Can you consider?

I might enjoy to see Diaz contend once again in an proper fight, but I worry the worst. I hope the UFC does not enable some younger rough to make his identify off Diaz. And I am even extra apprehensive — in a time when folks are shelling out to watch YouTubers struggle, when MMA fellas are “boxing” and aged legends like Evander Holyfield are generating us unfortunate — that we could be in for a Diaz spectacle.

Nick Diaz dropped his return fight to Robbie Lawler, but isn’t going to show up to be finished with the UFC just yet. Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Raimondi: I concur with equally of you that Diaz unquestionably can even now fight in opposition to appropriate opponents. The concern I have is, who the heck is that? Is it a middleweight? A welterweight shifting up? I have no desire in viewing Diaz against a star near his primary, like Jorge Masvidal, or some young, hungry monster like Khamzat Chimaev. But the UFC just isn’t just the location to be if you’re searching for favorable matchups. It can be sink or swim close to these parts. That is wherever my problem lies. So, Brett, what does Diaz’s future struggle even appear like?

Okamoto: In my column the other evening, I threw out the strategy of Ben Askren, which need to give you an indication of in which I’m at with Diaz matchmaking. Guaranteed, Askren is retired. But up right up until very last weekend, Diaz was fundamentally retired, way too. I believe Askren could be exciting, promote the battle, and not represent a tremendous perilous opponent who would result in a large amount of destruction against Diaz.

Raimondi: I like exactly where your head is at with the Askren thought, Brett. I’ll throw a identify out there, too, however he also is just not on the UFC roster any longer: Demian Maia. I wouldn’t detest that bout at middleweight. Two legends.

Wagenheim: I have no other names to toss out — until we’re chatting about fighters who ought to not be matched with Diaz, in which scenario I could recite most of the UFC roster. That is not a knock on Diaz. Six and a fifty percent a long time is a long time to be away, primarily at 38 decades outdated. Perhaps you can find 1 final magic act left in the king of the 209. I’ll be seeing, for confident. It’s possible holding my breath, however.

Raimondi: Talking of holding our breath, you can find someone else I want to tackle with the each of you: Jon Jones. We know, of course, that he was arrested Friday in Las Vegas on expenses of tampering with a auto, a felony, and misdemeanor battery domestic violence. This arrived just several hours right after he was at a ceremony wherever his legendary 2013 fight with Alexander Gustafsson was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. What does the UFC even do with Jones at this stage? He’s had umpteen possibilities. Could you consider if Jones was UFC champion when this occurred?

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Jon Jones expects to return to the UFC in the 2nd quarter of 2022 and would like to face the winner of Francis Ngannou vs. Ciryl Gane.

Okamoto: It is a superior problem, but also an irrelevant a single. The UFC won’t have a complete whole lot of say in Jon Jones’ vocation proper now. With his arrest, Jones’ eligibility to fight seriously is not up to the UFC. Prior to all of this occurred, I believed Jones would combat at heavyweight two times in 2022. And I think even with the existing situations, which is still a probability. In a odd feeling, we are at exactly where we always are with Jones. He is talented, possibly the finest fighter in the globe. But his private lifestyle could possibly derail all of that.

Jones’ 2022 was normally heading to be super attention-grabbing, but now it can be attention-grabbing for diverse explanations. Which is unfortunate. Bottom line, however: If I had to guess no matter if Jon Jones fights for the UFC heavyweight title in 2022, I might say certainly, as of this second, I feel he does.

Wagenheim: To me, the concept of Jones fighting for the heavyweight title at any time soon, in gentle of this hottest arrest, is troubling and unthinkable, which is why I would not be shocked to see it happen. MMA is a pageant of troubling and unthinkable twists, is just not it? I imply, a year back we believed it was a positive point that “Bones” would be challenging for the belt, and seem the place we are now.

Speaking only to Jones’ struggle occupation, most likely this most recent brush with the law will simplicity the contractual stalemate among him and the UFC, mainly because whichever leverage he may have thought he had is all gone. So if he will not place MMA on pause completely in buy to get his life with each other — that would be my prompt next step for him — and the legal system will allow Jones to get back again to fighting, he may well just acquire regardless of what bout he is provided and do it at the UFC’s price. And if the heavyweight Jon Jones performs like the light-weight heavyweight Jon Jones did, there’s no ceiling for the male. But then again, no ground too slippery, either.

Jon Jones’ battle versus Alexander Gustafsson was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame on Sept. 24. Jones was then arrested soon following. Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Raimondi: I am not guaranteed how a lot this slows Jones down. I spoke to a number of Las Vegas lawyers more than the last couple of days and, just primarily based on the charges by itself, they’re rather selected Jones would not be doing any form of prolonged jail time.

Now we know at minimum a tiny much more about what happened Thursday night time and early Friday early morning — and it can be considerably from a great glance for Jones. It will make me a tad uncomfortable speaking about Jones’ athletic career when he’s remaining accused of domestic violence. That is the actuality we are in, though, and persons are invested in Jones as a person of the best fighters in the historical past of the activity, if not the biggest.

Is there a way Jones can transform his daily life all around? I know he keeps indicating he’s carrying out greater, but these inadequate decisions are piling up.

Okamoto: This is a concern we have been answering for the better element of the very last ten years. Jones has, so much, managed to arrive absent from these personal concerns and still proceed his career. And at the end of the working day, I suspect he’ll do so listed here. Just in terms of his career inside of the Octagon, I consider Jones will even now struggle down the highway and he however has a superior shot at becoming a heavyweight winner. His outlook in the Octagon is the similar, as lengthy as he continues to be qualified to contend. His legacy is now a complex one particular. But an incident like this, it will abide by him. It surely gets component of the greater story of Jon Jones. It has been and carries on to be extremely sad that arguably the most effective fighter this sport has ever generated can not appear to be to conquer his personal demons. Like so lots of 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 scenario are disturbing and his priority plainly requirements to be his private lifestyle right now and not any UFC title.

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Wagenheim: Jones’ legacy as a fighter is not what is actually important. His legacy as a man is in tatters, and the best issue he could do for himself ideal now is commit each individual ounce of strength to expanding up. Above the yrs, we’ve all heard him deal with his problems and discuss about bettering himself as a person. He speaks with the most effective of intentions. And then, all over again and all over again, he has shown himself to be incapable of sustaining that goodheartedness.

Jones evidently simply cannot clean up his act all by himself. It can be time for him to surround himself with people today who will keep him to a bigger regular. If the most up-to-date allegations are real, it will be much more complicated than ever to get powering Jones. But in his ongoing fight with his worst tendencies, I will be rooting for him — not for Jon Jones the combined martial artist, not for a activity that misses its biggest fighter or for the UFC’s coffers, but for the man’s family, which has suffered by means of enough.