In September, I said I did not want to see Nick Diaz fight again in 2021 — or ever. One reason I gave for this opinion was the interview Diaz gave with Ariel Helwani in November 2019. I thought Diaz, who has a history of rambling and disjointed interviews, was not himself during the lengthy talk with the ESPN reporter. I know there were many opinions on that interview, but what I saw was a fighter who did not appear — in any way — ready to compete inside the octagon. In a surprising development, UFC president Dana White and I agree on what we would like to (not) see from Diaz.
“Everything that I see from Nick Diaz doesn’t look like Nick Diaz wants to or is ready to compete in this sport,” White said in an interview with “The Schmo.” “This sport, even Jon Jones, as good as Jon Jones is, you have to be 100 percent mentally, physically and emotionally ready to train, be ready for this and fight. And I just don’t think...I don’t think anyone should want to see Nick Diaz fight.”
The reason for the talk about the return of Diaz is that his manager said there was a “99.99999 (percent)” the former Strikeforce champion is going to fight in 2021. If that prediction comes true, it will be Diaz’s first appearance since he lost a decision to Anderson Silva (later ruled a no contest after both men failed drug tests) in January 2015.
While I was happy to report that White and I agreed on something, which is rarer than White wearing an adult size t-shirt, there’s a difference in what White and I do for a living. I’m (largely) an opinion writer. White is a fight promoter, which means White’s job is to book and publicize fights for competitors under the UFC banner. In Diaz’s case, White, through his comments, is doing exactly the opposite of his job description. To offer his opinion that no one should want to see Diaz fight again is not exactly creating anticipation and demand for the return of a former UFC title challenger.
I’d like to believe that White is truly concerned about the health and well-being of Diaz, but I just don’t believe he is. If White cared about the health — physical and mental — of fighters on the UFC roster he wouldn’t be silent on Mike Perry, who from all signs, could use a hand from the UFC at this very moment.
If Diaz’s mental and emotional fitness is not the real reason White is against booking a Nick Diaz fight, what might be at the root of the UFC’s reluctance to see the Stockton scrapper compete?
With a UFC roster purge hanging over the promotion, it’s easy to imagine the pay the UFC would have to offer a 37-year-old Nick Diaz is a sticking point.
Diaz made a reported $500,000 for his bout with Silva. It would not be a shock to find out he was looking for more than that to return to the octagon. As a business investment, it’s hard to see the UFC brass giving Diaz, whose most recent win was a 2011 decision over a depleted B.J. Penn, that kind of scratch.
And there’s the rub. The UFC doesn’t have many options if Diaz wants to fight. The promotion can book him a fight and pay him a pretty hefty fee for someone who hasn’t competed in over six years. The UFC can put Diaz on ice and deny him a fight, but that is not the best approach from a legal or contractual standpoint. Another option is for the UFC to release Diaz and allow him to hit the free market and get what he can from another promotion.
My bet is the UFC will drag out this process as long as it can. It’s up to the media and Diaz’s management to keep up the pressure and force Dana White to do his job and make an actual decision when it comes to the fighting future of Nick Diaz.