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UFC 266: Why I’ve changed my tune on Nick Diaz fighting

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If you asked me in 2019, I would have said ‘no way’ on the prospect of Nick Diaz fighting again.

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Had the UFC and ESPN not released video interviews with Nick Diaz ahead of UFC 266, I would have been very concerned with Diaz stepping into the octagon against Robbie Lawler. However, with the publication of those videos, I feel a lot better about the Diaz vs Lawler 2 matchup.

Between the Silva fight and UFC 266, it seemed as if Diaz was living an extended version of “The Lost Weekend.”

There was a stretch of time where it felt like a weekend didn’t pass without a video dropping on social media that seemed to show Diaz partying his face off. In 2020, Diaz’s friend and training partner, Jake Shields, said of those days, “Nick never drank, never did anything other than smoke pot obviously. He was completely dedicated to just train, train, train. So I think while he did go that way for a little bit, got a little out of control, he’s reigning it back in.

“I think he’s got that part of his life over, he’s not out in Vegas all the time anymore, he’s back training. I think we’re seeing the old Nick coming back.”

It was during those turbulent times that ESPN produced and released a long video interview with Diaz.

I had strong feelings about that video and two years later I feel the same.

At the time I thought the video was exploitative and did a disservice to Diaz. I also felt that the journalistic value of the video was negligible and the subject — Nick Diaz — would have been better served with a written profile pulled from the information he provided during the video. I still feel this way.

I don’t feel that way watching Diaz in front of the camera for his interview with the UFC or his long form interview with Brett Okamoto of ESPN.

Yes, Diaz went off on tangents and said some things we rarely hear from other fighters, but that’s nothing new. Diaz has always been a stream of consciousness speaker. Watching Diaz speak in these recent interviews, I was more focused on his demeanor, personality, and mindset. I saw nothing alarming or out of sorts from Diaz in any of those categories.

In fact, I saw a more mature and well thought out Diaz in these two interviews, especially when he seemed to reflect on his past actions and the effect they might have had or are having on the kids, now young adults, he has been working with in his gym.

Had the Diaz of that 2019 interview with ESPN been visible in either of the 2021 interviews, I would have said that Diaz should not fight, that his mindset is not right for a fight, even against a fellow veteran of the game like Robbie Lawler.

Right now, I’m as comfortable with Diaz fighting as I am with anyone stepping into the octagon. While that’s not totally comfortable — I mean, consider what happens in there — I’m not alarmed or overly worried about the immediate health and wellbeing of Diaz. Nick Diaz knows what he’s doing and seems as ready as he ever has to do his job.

For those concerned about Nick Diaz seeming to say he doesn’t want to fight, that’s nothing new. Diaz has been saying he doesn’t love fighting for a long while.

For example, in the lead up to the Anderson Silva fight in 2015, Diaz said, “Fighting is not something I enjoy doing. Fighting is something I feel I have to do, and that’s just the way it is. I don’t get excited to fight. I don’t use that word in this sport. I use that word like maybe I’m starving and food is showing up. That’s the kind of excitement I get.”

That might not be the language we are accustomed to hearing from professional fighters, but Diaz has always blazed his own trail.

With all of this being said, I’m not saying Nick Diaz should fight past Saturday. The future of the 38-year-old Nick Diaz is something to be discussed after he faces Robbie Lawler on Saturday at UFC 266.