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What’s next for Nate Diaz after the biggest win of his career?

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It’s all about momentum in the fight game and there’s no one in the UFC right now with more momentum than young Nathan Diaz out of Stockton, California. Diaz took a gamble (and a major payday) by fighting the UFC featherweight king on under two weeks notice and it paid off big time.

Diaz returned to welterweight for the first time since being rag dolled by Rory MacDonald for three rounds nearly five years ago in Toronto at UFC 129 to take on McGregor, who came into the contest by far as the hottest fighter in the UFC today. McGregor will spin it by saying Diaz owes all the glory to him and there may be some truth to that. The way Diaz sees it though is that he had this coming. The 22-fight UFC vet earned this victory due to years of hard work with his training partners and team over at Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu (mother fu**er). Honestly, if you think about it, Diaz was more than qualified to be the man to beat “the man,” this was the perfect storm for a fighter who deserved this moment in the sun. And it was so much fun to watch. It was Diaz being Diaz through and through. He bullied the smaller man inside of the cage that bullied him for a full week plus outside of it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love watching McGregor do his thing on the mic. He knows how to sell a fight better than anyone in the sport and no matter how he does it you cannot argue that getting more eyes on the sport is always a good thing. That said, there was something refreshing about Diaz almost knocking him down by slapping him in the face after watching McGregor make fun of his education and telling him to “get him his coffee” repeatedly during an interview that was as entertaining as it was embarrassing for the sport. If you’re a pro wrestling fan, this whole week was like a face turn for a fighter in Diaz who usually plays the heel. And of course, McGregor played the role of the cocky villain who was in over his head rather comfortably.

So what’s next for the younger Diaz brother following the biggest victory of his career? Diaz cleaned up on the night earning $500K to fight in addition to $100K in bonuses. Who’s to say that he’s even interested in coming back to the cage anytime soon? At just 30-years-old it’d be a good idea for him to take advantage of this momentum and get back into the cage at UFC 200 where he’d be able to net another major payday. It’s likely that some major bonuses will be paid out ($200K anybody?) and Diaz, who holds the record with 14 career post-fight bonus awards, would be crazy to pass up another opportunity to stack paper.

Right now, word around the campfire is that Diaz will be next for current two-time defending welterweight champion Robbie Lawler. Because a top ranked lightweight beating a featherweight at welterweight earning a title shot makes all the sense in the world, right? Of course not. But this is the UFC and Diaz is the hot name. Besides, McGregor was in line to fight Lawler if he would’ve ended up defeating Diaz. There are plenty deserving participants at 170 lbs: Stephen Thompson, Rory MacDonald (the two will battle it out in Ottawa this summer) Tyron Woodley, Carlos Condit and Demian Maia are all deserving of a shot at Lawler but none of those names hold the same cachet of Diaz. Still, let’s just pretend this isn’t going to happen.

A lightweight bout between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov is scheduled to headline UFC on FOX 19 in Tampa this spring. This one has all the makings of  a #1 contenders duel but if we’ve learned anything as UFC fans there really is no such thing. That said, Dos Anjos should face the winner of this contest at UFC 200 and we can create another potential #1 contenders bout between Diaz and Eddie Alvarez to kick off the PPV portion of the same event with the winner getting the winner of RDA vs. Ferguson/Khabib to close out 2016. Alvarez currently sits atop the UFC’s lightweight rankings after defeating former champ Anthony Pettis and former Strikeforce champ Gilbert Melendez in his last two bouts make him a more than deserving opponent for Diaz. He also fights out of Illadelph, PA which means he won’t back down from some good ole’ East Coast versus West Coast smack to help further a build a fight that hardcore MMA fans already know will deliver.

Another option would be making Diaz-Alvarez the five round main event of the July 7th event that is scheduled to kick off this year’s International Fight Week in Vegas. Regardless, Diaz-Alvarez is the fight to make. It’s a fight that Diaz has earned with his victory over McGregor and it’s a fight that will help him in the short and long term. A fight with Lawler only helps him in the short term when it comes to his bank account and hurts him in the long term when it comes to quality of life.

image via Sqor

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