Traditionally, superfights are discussed in terms of dueling champions from separate weight classes, and, like all things with loose interpretations, people tend to get all freaking argumentative about it.
Not so long ago, the superest superfight conceivable was UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva and welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, a couple of surhumans. With the onset of age and vulnerability -- as well as the reluctance of St-Pierre to bolt 170 -- "super" transferred to Silva and light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. When Silva lost to Chris Weidman and therefore the most powerful part of his mythos (his 16-0 record in the UFC), it became Jones and heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez.
The thing is, we like super to mean a collision of two perceivably invincible forces. It’s all very fun to talk about. But since none of these scenarios really has ever come close to materializing, superfights are either non-existent or our collective high-minded ideas of superfights needs to get more realistic.
Nick Diaz, a bona-fide needle-mover by Dana White’s standards, is going to fight Silva on January 31 in Las Vegas. This is a super fight, and given that no champion above 135 pounds will likely ever completely clean out a division enough to challenge other champions, we can remove the space bar from the equation. It’s a superfight. And it's going down Super Bowl weekend.
Think about it for a minute: Diaz and Silva will be locked in a cage with one another, with permission to do each other harm. For some reason, that feels somewhat too good to be true. Nevermind that Diaz lost two in a row before his self-imposed exile from the UFC, or that Silva snapped his fibula in the most gruesome manner the last time out a the ripened age of 38…sometimes it’s just about the fantasy.
Sometimes you just need to see Elvis and Tupac on the same stage.
Anderson Silva, for lack of a better word, is Anderson Silva. Nick Diaz is Nick Diaz. These two lines would never intersect. They have always been worlds apart. Now, after ridiculous circumstances, it’s booked. And even with the asterisks, it feels as big as any non-title fight has ever felt. In fact, it might even feel bigger, because now we don’t know what to expect. Curiosity will play a larger roll than normal. Curiosity drives the damn thing forward.
There are a lot of reasons to love this match-up, and not all of them are so easily defined. The basic allure is that these guys are who they are.
For starters, Diaz doesn’t sell them wolf tickets; he’s a fighter from the rawest center of the fight world who resists authority and speaks in Diazisms...which is defined as a series of overly verbal and often nonsensical comments that add up to something like brutal sincerity. Some of it doesn’t make complete sense (like the toxic airplane water he encountered en-route to Montreal, or falling under attack from soccer moms). Sometimes it makes too much sense, like when he says he doesn’t like getting hit in the face. That makes him ten times saner than, say, Chris Lytle who seemingly couldn’t get enough of it.
Sometimes Diaz talks himself into a bad mood, gets loud about it, and then cheers himself up. Not many people so innocently (or willingly) project their inner-storm system quite like Diaz. He is a walking contradiction, and for reasons that go far beyond that, he’s been missed. The fight game is more fun with Diaz in it. In his own way, he knows it. His press conferences alone are filled with the kind of tension that raises hype levels to the nth degree. It was Diaz who broke into St-Pierre’s "dark place," dragging Stockton into it. Diaz wants to fight hitters.
It just so happens that Silva is the greatest hitter the game has ever known. And even post-Weidman, and post-operation, he’s still the best mixed martial artist of all time. He had 10 title defenses. He didn’t lose for seven years in the UFC. When he did, he was caught taunting. Then he broke his leg in the Weidman rematch. Neither of those losses tells the whole story. There’s something that’s still unresolved.
What does he have left? Will he be the same? And not just physically after a year of rehab, but mentally? What will he look like at 39 going on 40? How will a press conference with him and Diaz look? What will be his facial expressions? And will he be the Striking Sublime that he was for all those years before Weidman? Because you know Diaz is going to stand in front of him. It’s going to happen.
And for all those reasons, that makes it damn fun, whether a belt is in play or not. It’s a fight that busts up convention and expands possibility, which, of course, is another way of saying super.