Over its short history the sport of mixed martial arts has been punctuated by some very famous, and not to mention very lucrative, rivalries.
Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock, Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell and Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier were all intense feuds which helped to define MMA as it grew in popularity but, as the UFC heads into a new era of its own, a new high-water mark has been set by the rivalry between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz.
McGregor earned a UFC record $3 million dollar payout for his efforts last night, eclipsing Brock Lesnar's $2.5 million fee for UFC 200 which, in turn, beat the record of $1 million that McGregor had received for his first fight with Nate Diaz (who pocketed $2 million himself last night).
Conor McGregor is netting $3m (new record) & Nate Diaz $2m with neither recieving a win bonus. Just flat fees. WOW.https://t.co/LNCwRv4wLY
— Chamatkar Sandhu (@SandhuMMA) August 20, 2016
They say that a rising tide lifts all boats. Conor McGregor's ascendancy to the summit of mixed martial arts must be seen as a positive for all fighters, give that the glass ceiling of what these athletes can earn hasn't just been destroyed - it has been smashed to smithereens. McGregor had boasted in the past that when someone gets booked to face him, it changes their "bum life". Now, it's not for us to refer to someone like Nate Diaz on those terms but his last fight prior to his initial meeting with the Irishman against Michael Johnson earned the Californian just $40,000.
Now, and when you factor in the sponsorship fees that Diaz also banked last night, he probably made somewhere in the ballpark of $5 million for his efforts last night.
That is a remarkable swing and Diaz, along with everyone else in the UFC locker room, has Conor McGregor to thank for dragging the UFC pay structure to a place where the fighters - those whose backs the company is built upon - can effectively make a case for increased pay.
Nothing encapsulates the crazy world of mixed martial arts like what we witnessed from Las Vegas last night, both in and out of the cage. The Diaz/McGregor rivalry is one we didn't know we wanted but, after that first short notice bout last March, the cast of characters involved have grabbed the sport by the scruff of the neck and dragged it to new heights.
The landscape of the UFC has changed dramatically in recent months and seems to be approaching a juncture where equity of pay and fighter rights are become an increasingly prominent discussion point. The first ever $1 million fight purse was only five months ago and now that's been eclipsed three times - with McGregor tripling it for his efforts in the second clash with Diaz. The company itself has new owners and, for what seems like the first time, it seems some serious headway is being made in unionising the UFC roster to allow for more collective bargaining.
Whichever way you look at it, this is an incredibly interesting time in mixed martial arts. And, rather strangely, we have Rafael Dos Anjos' broken foot to thank for a lot of it.