Every fighter likes to think they’ll know exactly when to retire. In a recent interview with Ariel Helwani, former multiple-time title contender Jorge Masvidal laid out his own plans, suggesting that he won’t stick around once he’s at the point where he can “no longer hang” with the younger generations of fighters in the gym. But things don’t always work out so easily.
Years ago, former lightweight champ Benson Henderson used to tell interviewers that he planned to retire from fighting and join the army reserves at age 33. Here he is now, at age 37, riding the first 3-fight losing skid of his career, having just dropped a unanimous decision to Brent Primus at Bellator 268. No shame in it for Henderson, he’s still been a fun fighter to watch, and he’s almost certainly made more money than he would have otherwise—it’s just, life can get tricky.
When it comes to the case of former Strikeforce champ Nick Diaz, exactly what his plans are or have been is a lot harder to tell. Following the end of his Strikeforce run, Diaz competed in the UFC just four times in the four years that followed. And when the Nevada State Athletic Commission attempted to suspend him for five years due to a failed drug test for marijuana (later reduced to 18 months), it seemed that the longtime Cesar Gracie talent was ready to be done fighting.
While talk of Diaz returning to the cage never entirely went away, regular stories and videos of Diaz partying in Vegas painted a picture of a fighter who seemed reasonably pleased with retirement. Him making his return to competition earlier this year, at UFC 266, came as something of a surprise.
And while Diaz acquitted himself decently well for a 38-year-old who hadn’t been in the cage for more than half a decade, he left fans with a lot more questions than answers as to whether he still had the desire to compete.
“I don’t know how this fight got set up,” Diaz told the crowd after retiring from the bout early in the third round. “I had a switch-up in my whole management set-up and the way the fight got set up. It was just a bum wrap. But no excuses. I had it coming... I’m glad to be back. I’m glad I put on a good show for you.”
Alongside speaking of his own retirement plans, Masvidal recently gave his own thoughts on Diaz’s return to MMA—as a fighter who worked alongside the Stockton native during his time as Strikeforce champ, and who has followed Diaz’s career for years (transcript via MMA Fighting).
“[It was] not the Nick Diaz that I’m accustomed to, obviously,” Masvidal said of Diaz’s recent loss on The MMA Hour, adding that he didn’t know what Diaz was going through, or if he had money trouble. “I was fighting alongside Nick when he was in Strikeforce and I was in Strikeforce, so I knew a very different Nick Diaz. I don’t want to see the guy get hurt, man.
“I would love to see him in peak shape, go in there and f*ck some people up, but I don’t know how much of a reality that is now after seeing his last performance. I want to see him not get hurt. And if he does go back in there, I want to see him as close as we can to his old self. I don’t think his last performance, we got to see that.”
What exactly the UFC has planned for Diaz in the future isn’t all that apparent. At times Diaz has sounded intent on fighting again. At other times, like above, he’s sounded as surprised as anyone that he ended up in the cage at all. As for Dana White, he sounded more impressed with Diaz than anything.
“I don’t know,” White told reporters, when asked if that would be Diaz’s last UFC bout. “I honestly don’t know the answer to that question, but he looked damn good.”
There’s no turning back time, and a return of ‘Strikeforce era’ Nick Diaz is almost certainly purely a pipe dream. But, if Diaz really is interested in fighting again, it doesn’t sound like the UFC is dead set on turning him away, even if the result is not the same vintage Nick Diaz that fans remember.