Is The UFC Really Worth $4 Billion? Probably

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Demetrious Johnson, arguably the most accomplished fighter to ever step into the UFC Octagon, jerked the curtain at UFC 216 for Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee. On the surface, it was a nonsensical decision. Johnson was solidifying his place in history—the two lightweights just looking to make their first marks.

Stepping back, however, it all became clear. Johnson wasn't playing second fiddle to the two guys fighting for one of the UFC's pretend interim championships. Instead, he was a role player at an event that starred the mere idea of Conor McGregor.

McGregor wasn't fighting at UFC 216 on Oct. 7. He wasn't even in the building. But Lee and Ferguson were competing for the richest prize in combat sports—a chance to meet McGregor in a life-changing bout. That alone was enough to vault them into the main event that Ferguson won in impressive fashion.

This is a star unlike any the UFC has ever known.

By any reasonable standard, Ferguson deserves the next title shot at lightweight. He's won 10 fights in a row and is a crackerjack fighter with a spastic, unorthodox unpredictability, the kind of man who can wear sunglasses indoors and make it look entirely unpretentious. He's a delight.

But being ready for a shot at the UFC title isn't the same as being ready for a fight with McGregor, a much bigger reward. An anthropomorphic faux mink coat with leopard print fringe, McGregor isn't just a showstopper—at this point, he's the whole darn show for a UFC desperate to create revenue and stars.

A fight with McGregor isn't just a fight. It's an event, a worldwide extravaganza under the brightest of lights. Men have broken from the pressure, McGregor's lethal left hand a relief after months of endless scrutiny.

Nate Diaz has survived that gauntlet. Twice. Better than that, he's proved he can handle everything McGregor dishes out, both in and out of the cage. The two have split a pair of bouts. It's time to settle the score once and for all.

When the Diaz trilogy is over, Ferguson will still be there, perhaps with the promotional seasoning required to be a proper foil for McGregor. Excellence knows no temporal limitation. But the time for McGregor-Diaz III is now. A Diaz loss, always a possibility, would hurt their third bout. So would watching McGregor fall to another fighter.

Not only is it one of the most exciting bouts the sport can possibly provide, it answers the only question that truly matters in this barbarous business—how much money can be made in just 25 minutes?

The iron is already hot. It's been hot. It's time to strike before it inevitably cools to room temperature, becoming just another fun fight. This bout is money, just sitting there waiting to find a home in someone's pocket. It's time for UFC to bend over and pick it up.

—Jonathan Snowden

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