[Image via assets.sbnation.com]
All of us are going to have to get used to the idea that Nick Diaz is gone.
It's a damn shame, really. Nick is in the prime of his career, and instead of mixed martial arts, his amazing athleticism is most likely going to be put towards triathlons and "Tough Mudder" competitions.
What's even more frustrating is that Nick Diaz can't fight again until February 3, 2013 at the earliest. He's never been out of competition for that long, fighting at least twice a year since 2002. Simply put, the Nevada State Athletic Commission is stealing one of Nick's best years from MMA fans. So, what'll happen when he comes back?
Georges St. Pierre May No Longer Be Champion
Right now, this is the biggest issue at hand here. GSP's ACL injury could negatively impact the remainder of his career, and considering that "Rush" has been out of competition for a year already, fending off a new hungry wave of challengers won't be an easy task.
Personally, I don't think he'll be able to keep it up. People are quick to write off Carlos Condit, but he's more dangerous than GSP's last five opponents. Johnny Hendricks probably won't knock either guy off his perch, but Jake Ellenberger and Rory MacDonald are both worrisome figures looming in the title hunt.
More Wrestlers Will Rule the 170-Pound Weight Class
Although his stand-up and BJJ is top-notch, Nick Diaz got the most favorable title path he possibly could in his last two fights.
B.J. Penn (who's terrible at any weight class but lightweight) was a marquee opponent, but not the kind that could put Diaz at any risk during a full three-round welterweight fight. Carlos Condit is the polar opposite—a dangerous threat at any range and any position—but he isn't a takedown specialist, either.
When Diaz returns to the welterweight division, he's not going to be able to avoid facing a top-ranked wrestler on his return fight. Jake Ellenberger, Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch, and Johny Hendricks are all NCAA wrestling behemoths that are a stylistic nightmare for him, and when I think of Rory MacDonald, all I can remember is Nate Diaz getting tossed around the cage like a ragdoll.
Media Woes and Public Scrutiny Will Be Worse Than Ever
Although Nick unjustly got his legs cut out from under him by the NSAC, no one can argue that the whole situation hasn't made him any less famous.
If Nick hated dealing with press obligations and the media before his retirement and suspension, it's just going to be worse when he comes back. Everyone's going to ask about his opinion, press him for quotes, and generally dig up the whole thing at any opportunity.
Even if Nick is indifferent because he legally didn't do anything wrong, one has to wonder if he'll even want to come back to another Spanish Inquisition and more stress.
And now, the long wait begins.
When (and if) Nick Diaz finally returns to the UFC, it just might be a far rougher road to the title than before.
[McKinley Noble is an MMA conspiracy theorist and former writer for GamePro, PC World and Macworld. Follow his Twitter account for crazy talk, 1990s movie references, and general weirdness. Or you could just stalk him on Google.]