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Ariel Helwani's MMA thoughts: Jorge Masvidal's biggest prize? Options

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Helwani: Jorge Masvidal vs. Nate Diaz faces unfortunate ending (1:30)

Ariel Helwani, Chael Sonnen and Paul Felder react to Jorge Masvidal beating Nate Diaz at UFC 244 when the doctor stopped the fight after three rounds due to a cut suffered by Diaz. (1:30)

When I spoke to Conor McGregor on Dec. 12, 2015, after he knocked out Jose Aldo, he said something that has always stuck with me: "Questions are good, like options are good. In the fight business, questions and options, I'm happy that there's both."

I'd never heard someone break down the best byproduct of winning in the fight game quite like that before.

And that's exactly where Jorge Masvidal finds himself this week: facing questions and options.

Questions about how far he has come in a year and where he goes from here.

And the options are aplenty. Oh, are they ever aplenty.

Heck, there might as well be a blimp flying over Coconut Creek, Florida, right now with the words "The World Is Yours" on it.

Because make no mistake about it, the greatest thing Masvidal won on Saturday night when he defeated Nathan Diaz was an abundance of options. Not the BMF belt or anything like that. It was the options that matter most. And as far as I'm concerned, there are three realistic ones at his disposal right now:

1) Winner of Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington for the welterweight title

2) Diaz rematch

3) McGregor

At the moment, no decision has been made. It's way too soon. There's no need to make a call right now.

I think Team Masvidal should start thinking about what's next only after the Usman vs. Covington fight on Dec. 14. I think if Covington wins, there will be a push to make a fight between him and Masvidal because of the backstory between them. I think if Usman wins, that would be better for Diaz, because I don't think there is as much interest right now in Usman vs. Masvidal.

And then, of course, there is McGregor. He wants to come back on Jan. 18 (more on that later), so I don't think Masvidal would be next for him. However, in, say, July or so? Why not?

In the end, three tremendous options. And I know Masvidal is pushing for a Canelo Alvarez fight. I won't rule it out, but I think that's a long shot right now, so let's keep that one under our hats.

And yeah, Diaz, as he noted on Twitter, made those options possible for Masvidal. He called him out after beating Anthony Pettis when he could have picked anyone. So I do think Masvidal owes him a rematch sometime in the near future. Does the UFC agree? That remains to be seen.

But guess what: Diaz has options, too. People still love him, and his next fight will be massive again. If there's one thing Masvidal vs. Diaz taught us, it's that one loss doesn't define these guys. Does the loss sting? Sure, but I don't think Nate's stock dropped all that much.

It might be a minute, as the kids say, before we see Diaz back, but when he does eventually return, he'll be just as fun to watch in and out of the cage.

One last thing on options:

On Monday night, I spoke to UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya for a piece that will run next month. I asked what the best byproduct of his success has been. I thought he'd talk about the money or the inspiration he has become to Nigerian children.

His answer?

"The options."

More "Gamebred"

Again, what a year for a man who was inactive in 2018. Masvidal might be the Fighter of the Year, the breakthrough and most improved fighter of the year, too. That never happens. But it all fits when it comes to Jorge "Gamebred" Masvidal in 2019.

Now, I know people are still bummed about the finish on Saturday. A few thoughts:

1) Don't overlook how good Masvidal looked in the first three rounds. Would Diaz have turned things around in the fourth? Maybe. We'll never know. But what we do know is Masvidal was up 3-0 going into the fourth. Diaz needed a finish to win that fight.

2) The way the fight ended was actually the best-case scenario for Diaz and the worst-case for Masvidal. For Diaz, had he lost all five rounds or by stoppage, it would have been a blow to his persona. But now he can flip the script, which he did as only he can at the postfight news conference, and say he was just getting warmed up. Brilliant. Masvidal didn't get the definitive win he was looking for and was even booed on the way out. He didn't deserve that.

3) We can critique fight technique, game plans and even refs or judges all we want, but I don't feel comfortable critiquing a doctor. Would that fight have continued had it been in Nevada or California? Maybe. It's really hard to say.

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Till claims Trump got involved in visa issues before UFC 244

Darren Till says Donald Trump's secret service made things difficult before his UFC 244 win over Kelvin Gastelum.

What a week

UFC 223 fight week in Brooklyn will forever take the cake for the wildest ever, but last week is up there, too. Just look at all the wacky/unique/special things that happened:

Monday: We're still wondering if this fight is going to happen after the drug-testing drama. Both Diaz and Masvidal calm our nerves during a conference call.

Tuesday: Word starts to emerge that Darren Till is having trouble entering the States due to a visa problem. Jared Cannonier makes his way to New York as a potential last-minute replacement for Till, and Kelvin Gastelum lets it be known he will not accept a replacement opponent.

Wednesday: Still no sign of Till. Masvidal invites fans onstage to spar during open workouts.

Thursday: Till finally arrives. No faceoff between Diaz and Masvidal at media day.

Friday:

  • Gastelum uses his coach, Rafael Cordeiro, as a crutch while weighing in.

  • Cannonier misses weight.

  • The UFC makes a big to-do over the unveiling of the BMF belt.

  • The Rock holds a press conference to announce a new movie based on the life of Mark Kerr.

  • Stugotz of Dan Le Batard Show fame accompanies Masvidal during the ceremonial weigh-ins.

  • Nick Diaz accompanies his brother, Nathan, during the weigh-ins.

  • Boxing legend Roberto Duran is in attendance and reveals he will walk Masvidal to the cage Saturday night.

Whew.

Saturday: In addition to a wildly entertaining card, with a very hot crowd, the President of the United States shows up prior to the start of the main card and sits in the front row, not up in a suite. A sitting U.S. president had never attended a UFC event, as you probably guessed. As a result, security is heightened around Madison Square Garden.

Oh, and then the highly anticipated BMF title fight ends via ... doctor stoppage.

That's a lot. It was memorable. And now if I don't have to hear the acronym BMF for at least six months, I'll be a happy man.

UFC 244 odds and ends

My favorite part of fight week was seeing the Diaz brothers together. There had been some talk that they grew apart recently, so it was really nice seeing them back by each other's side once again.

Loved that Till felt comfortable enough telling us that he was so scared before the Gastelum fight that he even thought about faking an injury. This only makes Till more relatable and likeable, in my opinion. What these men and women do inside a cage is not normal. Feeling scared and anxious is normal. I'm glad Till stuck with it and is back on track. Remember, he's only 26.

I was worried Stephen Thompson would be a little gun-shy following the first knockout loss of his career, but he was anything but that. Very impressive win over the tough Vicente Luque.

Like Till, Kevin Lee is another fighter people may have written off too soon. Only 27. What a comeback win and knockout for "The Motown Phenom."

Edmen Shahbazyan is a star on the rise. That must feel great for head coach Edmond Tarverdyan to produce another potential champion after he was ridiculed following Ronda Rousey's demise.

How about Jairzinho Rozenstruik? Quietly, he has put together three knockouts in 2019, and then he accepts the Alistair Overeem fight on Dec. 14. One more knockout this year, and the UFC will have a new contender on its hands at heavyweight who very few saw coming. I mean, doesn't it seem like no one is talking about Rozenstruik despite his 9-0 record with all but one of those wins coming via KO or TKO?

Katlyn Chookagian has to be next for Valentina Shevchenko. There are no other options.

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Adesanya tells Jones to 'come see me at 185'

Israel Adesanya says he wants to clean out the middleweight division before moving up to fight Jon Jones, but says Jones can jump the line at 185.

Buckle up

We've got another loaded weekend of MMA action coming up, with Bellator, KSW, ONE and Cage Warriors all holding events. But the two biggest fights on the slate are the ones happening at UFC Fight Night in Moscow on Saturday.

I think a lot of people pegged this as a breakout year for Zabit Magomedsharipov. However, he's fought only once so far in 2019 (a decision win over Jeremy Stephens back in March), and it feels like he has lost some momentum. A big showing against Calvin Kattar in this weekend's main event in front of his fellow Russians would obviously do him good, but I think most of us thought he'd be further along by the end of this year.

And then, of course, we have Alexander Volkov vs. Greg Hardy. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, credit to Hardy for taking this fight on short notice against an opponent who is much better than anyone he has faced thus far. It's a shrewd public relations move on his part, because he has nothing to lose and everything to gain. No one is expecting him to win, but he hits hard, and if he can catch Volkov, everything changes for Hardy.

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0:41

Harris: I won't stop until I find my daughter

Walt Harris says he won't stop the search until he finds his daughter and can bring closure to the situation.

Hear and there

Donald Cerrone is still the front-runner for McGregor. All parties are still optimistic that fight will happen on Jan. 18. However, as McGregor's manager, Audie Attar, said on Monday, no deal is done just yet. ... February pay-per-view in Houston? ... Say what you will about Colby Covington, but the heel heat he received in New York was pretty darn strong. You just don't see that kind of reaction at your typical press conference. Truth be told, Usman should be thanking Covington privately, because Colby is only making Usman into a big star. Usman isn't getting that kind of pop if he's fighting another random contender. ... I'm no fight snob, but I genuinely don't understand the appeal of Logan Paul vs. KSI. ... Look out for prospect Kyle Crutchmer this weekend at Bellator 233.

Please continue to keep Walt Harris and his family in your thoughts. The search for the UFC heavyweight's stepdaughter, Aniah Blanchard, continues. I very much appreciate him coming on the show Monday to talk about this nightmare. I can't imagine what his family is going through right now. We are all praying she will be found, safe and sound, right away.