Nate Diaz allegedly testing positive with USADA for elevated levels of something called SARM ("selective androgen receptor modulator," a banned substance) gave fight fans quite the jolt Thursday, throwing UFC 244's main event with Jorge Masvidal into doubt. Friday, Dustin Poirier ratcheted things up even further when he called Diaz a certain b-word and a "fake-[expletive] gangster" on Twitter. Nate's brother, Nick, quickly answered with some emasculating NSFW barbs on Instagram. And somewhere betwixt the mire was a tease of a big, giant Conor McGregor return fight in January.
But don't let that distract you even for one minute, UFC heads. There's one narrative that is more important than all the others this week: the ever-expanding feud between women's strawweight and flyweight contender Paige VanZant and up-and-coming phenom Maycee Barber.
How did this all start? Well, by the time the 21-year-old Barber put Gillian Robertson in a shallow grave at UFC Boston two weeks ago, she had already been calling out the Notorious PVZ for months. After her big win, she did so again with even less ambiguity than before. VanZant then posted a challenge on Instagram to 62 (!) fighters in the 115- and 125-pound divisions, but notably left out Barber.
It was not an accident. Consider 12 Gauge's insistence that she only wants to fight those who truly respect the sport.
"We will fight anyone but Maycee at 115 or 125," VanZant's manager clarified MMAFighting.com Wednesday.
This war of words has gotten heated in a hurry, and it's exactly what mixed martial arts needs. Not simply women's MMA -- the whole darn deal. See, at 25, VanZant is still quite young as these things go, so there's something of a bizarro "Sunset Boulevard" edge to the whole idea of a tenderfoot like Barber lighting up the game and making her irrelevant far before she could ever be ready to step aside.
Drink it in, fight fans. This beef is anything but manufactured. It's real. And it's going to get a lot hotter. Witness Barber's irresistibly bold, snarky response to PVZ with an Instagram post of her own.
That's right! "Dana White, TMZ, Paige VanZant, I’m right here. I’ve been waiting. So either sign the contract and show up. Otherwise, give me a contract with someone with the last name VanZant," Barber said.
This is a sporting feud that's barely sportsmanlike (sportswomanlike!). It's dripping with rancor and condescension. If and when these two square up in the Octagon, Urban Dictionary will be forced to update its definition of mean-mugging. We may even need to find a manufacturer for a special women's BMF belt at this rate.
The narrative is too perfect. VanZant's status as rapidly rising star of the women's fight game is suddenly and increasingly threatened by an even younger, even more brazen starlet. The idea of it being PVZ's "turn" is officially on trial. And we're in for a whole lot more scorched-earth rhetoric before all's said and done.