UFC 244 fight card: Nate Diaz vs. Jorge Masvidal to main event at Madison Square Garden in non-title bout

After a chaotic week of negotiations, UFC 244 at New York’s Madison Square Garden finally has its main event.

All-action welterweights and fan favorites Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal will headline the promotion’s annual visit to “The World’s Most Famous Arena” in a five-round non-title bout on Nov. 2, UFC president Dana White told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto on Saturday.

The development is noteworthy because it represents a change in philosophy from White who recently was against allowing non-title bouts to main event pay-per-view cards. But a breakdown in talks in the targeted welterweight title bout between champion Kamaru Usman and former interim titleholder Colby Covington ultimately forced White’s hand.

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Although an official UFC championship will not be at stake, White told ESPN he will create a special BMF title (“Baddest Motherf—er”) for the winner. In addition, White said the card will be void of any other title bouts so that the main event doesn’t overshadow a true championship bout.

“Nate Diaz called out Masvidal after his win over Pettis. Everyone was hitting me up on social media telling me to get this done and I can now announce that the fight is done,” White said. “This whole thing started to materialize last night. Diaz’s guys started going back and forth with us and we got it done. I’m excited for it and I’m sure the fans are excited to see it.”

What makes the fight so attractive, outside of the entertaining styles presented by both, is the clash in similar anti-hero personalities and the UFC finally recognizing the marketing potential of the two counter-culture draws.

Diaz (20-11) returned from a three-year layoff last month to outpoint Anthony Pettis in impressive fashion at UFC 241. The 34-year-old native of Stockton, California, also retained his must-see quality as an attraction following a pair of PPV blockbusters against Conor McGregor in 2016.

Masvidal (34-13) finally secures the type of big fight he has coveted over a 16-year career filled with ups and downs. At 34, the Miami native has seen his profile grow considerably after attacking Leon Edwards backstage in March following Masvidal’s knockout of Darren Till. Four months later, Masvidal created quite possibly the most viral finish in UFC history when he needed just five seconds to knock out Ben Askren via flying knee.

“It’s one of those fights that’s fun, it’s interesting, that the fans are into and you want to see for five rounds yet it’s too big to be a Fight Night so we made it a pay-per-view,” White said. “I will end up stacking this card with killer fights and the main event will be great too.”

In addition to Diaz vs. Masvidal, UFC 244 also has some big name fights already on the books. Darren Till will make his much anticipated debut at middleweight when he takes on Kelvin Gastelum. Johnny Walker makes his return from a brief layoff with a shoulder injury from celebrating when he takes on Corey Anderson. And Derrick Lewis returns from knee surgery to take on Blagoy Ivanov.