Nick Diaz returned from a six year hiatus last night at UFC 266. His welcome back ceremony included a fight with ‘Ruthless’ Robbie Lawler, a former UFC welterweight champion and someone Diaz defeated way back in 2004.
Though Diaz was game for the first two rounds, the time away looked as though it was catching up with him. And then, in the third, Lawler ended the contest by TKO.
Diaz, who throughout fight week gave conflicting statements on his desire to be there, said he knew this defeat was coming.
Here’s exactly he said to Daniel Cormier immediately after the fight (ht bjpenn).
“At least I put on a show. I knew I had it coming. Old Rob. You know I had a lot of stress coming into this one. You know especially with me being off a long time. And yea, I think, well I don’t have no excuses. I just had a long time off and I knew I had it coming.”
“I don’t know how this fight got set up but I had to switch up everything, you know, with my management and just how the fight got set up. I was just a bum wrap you know like.. but no excuses. You know, I had it coming and he’s in great shape. I’m glad I could… You know I was leaking here so I didn’t want to make too much of a mess. But I’m glad to be back and I’m glad to put on a good show for you.”
The loss will do nothing to erode Diaz’s standing among fans of the sport. The pride of Stockton has, despite being out of action for over half a decade, remained one of the most popular figures in MMA.
He left the UFC in 2007, taking fights in PRIDE and EliteXC before hooking up with Strikeforce. He went undefeated in that organization, lifting the Strikeforce welterweight championship and defending it on three occasions.
He came back to the UFC when ZUFFA bought out Strikeforce in 2011. His first fight back in the Octagon was a Fight of the Night win over B.J. Penn. He then lost to Carlos Condit for the interim UFC welterweight title. His next fight was a defeat to Georges St-Pierre for the full title at UFC 158 in 2013.
Diaz returned two years later to fight Anderson Silva at UFC 183. That bizarre match-up ended in a unanimous decision win for ‘The Spider’. However, that was overturned when Silva tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. That was Diaz’s last fight before yesterday’s return.
During his second stint in the UFC Diaz racked up years of suspensions from both USADA and the Nevada Athletic Commission for his use of marijuana. In 2015 Nevada handed Diaz a five year suspension and fined him $165,000 for use of that substance. That suspension and fine were later downgraded after successful appeals by Diaz.
Marijuana has since been removed from both USADA and Nevada’s list of banned substances.