Three “Huh?” Moments in MMA Last Week: June 26 Edition

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UFC star Nate Diaz
Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Nate Diaz is picking up the phone for less than $20 million, the UFC is going to crown yet another women’s featherweight champion this year, and we may even get to see Conor McGregor in the Octagon in 2017. Huh?

Finding the proper response to much of the news finding its way into our social media feeds is becoming a tougher task every day. Nothing is surprising, and there’s always more to the story. Leaving us with one reply: “huh?”. Last week, the UFC stripped now-former women’s featherweight champion Germaine de Randamie of her title, Nate Diaz had a lawsuit filed against him, and John Kavanagh shared some insight as to what we might be seeing from his star-pupil later this year.

The reason “huh?”, in its various forms, is such a quality reply is simple. The word is as versatile as a response gets, and while it may require some explanation, “huh?” is sometimes the only way to react to the news of today. Defined by Merriam-Webster as an interjection that’s “used to express surprise, disbelief, or confusion, or as an inquiry inviting affirmative reply”, “huh” or “huh?” can mean a lot of different things.

Despite some of the follies of human evolution (see: GOP Health Care), the development and growth of “huh” is something we should embrace. To be the change we want to see in the world, here are a few MMA stories last week that made us go “huh?”.

3. Nate Diaz has a (legal) fight!

We all miss Nate Diaz competing in the Octagon. His extended absence is one of the reasons 2017 hasn’t quite lived up to the fun of 2016, and the sooner he (and Nick) returns, the better. Unfortunately, it looks as though he has a fight of another kind on his hands this summer.

Last week, Diaz’s former management group filed a lawsuit in Texas claiming the lightweight contender owes them more than $1 million for work done dating back to 2014. Huh.

According to attorney Jason Friedman, who is representing Diaz’s former agents, The Ballengee Group negotiated Diaz’s last four fights. Then, a month before the second bout with McGregor, Diaz left the agency. Attempts to work out pay for breach of contract by the agency were unsuccessful, leading to the lawsuit.

The group is also alleging that fellow UFC fighter Leslie Smith left the agency and now refuses to pay for prior services, after being encouraged to sign for the group by the Diaz brothers in 2015.

Stuff like this is never fun, and certainly not the way fans want to see the Diaz brothers fighting in 2017. But, when money is involved, things get serious. While serious, this will likely get settled and end up nothing more than another blip on the Diaz brothers’ radar. Here’s hoping that’s the case and the duo are back in the right kind of fights sooner rather than later.

2. Now Hiring: UFC Women’s Featherweight Champion

Less than six months after becoming the inaugural UFC women’s featherweight champion, Germaine de Randamie is no longer the UFC women’s featherweight champion. The reason? The “UFC maintains that any champion is expected to accept fights against the top contenders in their respective weight classes in order to maintain the integrity of the sport” according to a statement released by the promotion. Huh?

We’re all behind de Randamie losing the title. The creation of the UFC’s women’s featherweight division was rushed, as was the crowning of a champion. Without Cyborg in the picture from the start, there was no point. But, the UFC instead felt as though they needed a belt for UFC 208, and we’re all still trying to figure out why.

While de Randamie losing the belt is all well and good, the promotion’s reasoning is rich. A very typically tone-deaf statement from the UFC doesn’t acknowledge the hypocrisy it represents when situations like those involving Conor McGregor, Michael Bisping, Georges St. Pierre, Demetrious Johnson, and more are taking place.

We all know the UFC doesn’t care whether or not a champion accepts fights against the top contenders in their respective weight classes. If that were the case, the landscape of the promotion would be entirely different. All that matters to the promotion is the bottom line, and how much money they make. Fans understand that, and so do the fighters.

When the UFC is interested in maintaining the integrity of the sport via championship fights, we’ll know.

1. McGregor to return to the Octagon in December?

In a column for The42, Conor McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh provided some insight into the mindset of the UFC lightweight champion, and the camp as a whole as they trek toward the bout with Floyd Mayweather on August 26th.

Much of it is expected coach-speak, and gives a solid context to the way McGregor and co. operate. One part stood out though, where Kavanagh expresses his expectations on when the 155-pound champ will return to the Octagon. The coach is careful to not reveal certain aspects of the camp’s training, but is comfortable revealing the “tentative plans” for the team.

“Many of the questions I’ve been receiving over the past week have focused on when Conor will fight in the UFC again. My expectation is that it will happen this year, although it’s always difficult to predict what Conor is going to do next… But the tentative plan, as I see it, is certainly for a fight in the UFC in December.” – John Kavangah in The42

Huh. There’s plenty of people saying McGregor won’t return to the Octagon for a while after his Mayweather payday, and others who say he won’t ever fight again. The people saying these things are guessing. As we all are. Even Kavanagh points out that predicting what McGregor will do next isn’t an easy task.

But, Kavanagh’s insight is worth more than most. This isn’t the first we’re hearing of a potential late-2017 return to the UFC for McGregor, and Kavanagh adding to the conversation isn’t an accident. Whether it’s McGregor’s camp hedging bets and attempting to cushion a landing back in the UFC should the Irishman get embarassed, or the slight reveal of a yet-to-be shared contract stipulation, this should excite those of us who want McGregor back in the Octagon.

Does this mean he’s definitely fighting this year? No. Does it mean he’s definitely not retiring once the check from August 26th cashes? No. There’s a lot that’s going to shape both McGregor and the UFC’s future in the coming months, and no direction is certain. But, it’s nice to know that a UFC return for McGregor is as in the picture as anything. For now.

Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor both have fights away from the UFC this summer, with vastly different impacts on their respective bank accounts. While Diaz handles legal issues, and McGregor tries to (once again) shock the world, former UFC featherweight champion Germaine de Randamie isn’t fighting anyone, and that was a problem for the promotion. Now, it’s not a problem, and Cris Cyborg will take on Megan Anderson for the belt at UFC 214. Huh.

“Huh?” for the road

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