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UFC welterweight star Jorge Masvidal ready for headlining role

Welterweight star Jorge Masvidal will finally headline a UFC pay-per-view event for the first time in his 16-year professional career when he faces Nate Diaz for a mythological belt on Nov. 2 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Masvidal is thrilled his time has finally come, even if he’s fighting for the “Baddest Mother (expletive) on the Planet” belt the organization is creating for the occasion.

“I love it,” he said at a Thursday prime-time news conference in Manhattan. “Me sitting up here means more zeroes in my bank account and more money for my family, so I’m ready for it. I’ve been doing this for a long time.

“I love to compete at the highest level possible. I love knowing the opponent in front of me is known for kicking ass, because that’s what’s motivating to me, and I’m more motivated than ever.

The title was invented by Diaz during a postfight interview in August when he said it was the only belt he cared about because champion Kamaru Usman and top contender Colby Covington didn’t appear to be in any hurry to get back in the cage.

Diaz’s idea will become reality. UFC president Dana White said Thursday he would produce an actual belt for the occasion.

The fight, pitting two of the most popular fighters in the organization, figures to be more exciting than the news conference. Neither fighter was particularly eager to engage in any vitriolic exchanges, and several questions bordered on the bizarre.

In fact, both were downright complimentary of each other. Masvidal cautioned a member of the media who asked what makes Diaz different from the last two opponents he has knocked out quickly to thrust himself into the public eye in a way the 34-year-old has never experienced.

“He’s a different caliber than the guys that you mention,” Masvidal said of Diaz. “I’ve seen him pull through some tough situations and win those decisions. I’ve got to do whatever it takes, man.”

While the winner will leave Madison Square Garden with a shiny new belt, he could also be next in line to fight either Usman or Covington should they wind up meeting in the cage.

Masvidal says his plan will be to fight the winner.

“What I am going to wait for is for those two sissies to clear it out of who is going to fight,” he said. “If God gives me the victory on Nov. 2, I want to take everybody’s head who’s attached to a belt.

“Somebody says they have a belt, I’m coming for it. And if it’s either one of those two sissies, then they are going to get it.”

Rodriguez ready for return

Featherweight prospect Yair Rodriguez made a triumphant return from an 18-month layoff after his first UFC loss to record one of the most dramatic knockouts in UFC history just before the final bell against Chan Sung Jung last November.

Then Rodriguez missed the next 10 months.

He will step back in the cage Saturday when he fights veteran Jeremy Stephens in the main event of UFC Fight Night 159 in Mexico City.

Rodriguez said the delay was because of the injuries he suffered against Jung in a fight he took on short notice.

“I understand there is a life after fighting,” he said this week. “I wanted to take time off to heal, get better with my technique, train and just come back ready.”

He will have a chance to follow up the dramatic win over Jung when he takes on Stephens on a main card airing on ESPN-Plus at 5 p.m.

McGregor back in December?

Former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion Conor McGregor made headlines this week when he simply tweeted, “Dublin, December 14th.”

White confirmed in an online chat with fans Thursday that the Irish superstar would like to fight in his hometown on that date even though the UFC has a pay-per-view event scheduled in Las Vegas.

“I’m sure you saw his tweet,” White said. “Conor wants to fight Dec. 14 in Dublin, but we have a fight in Vegas. So if he doesn’t fight on that card, he’ll fight early next year.”

McGregor last fought Oct. 6, 2018, when he lost by submission to lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov.

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Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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