When Nick Diaz retired in March 2013 fresh from dropping a lopsided unanimous decision to then-UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, he told reporters that the only fights to could coax him back into the cage would be a rematch against the Canadian or a superfight against Anderson Silva. At the time, Diaz's requests were largely scoffed at. This was a guy who'd lost two straight outings; he wasn't exactly in the position to barter for another big opportunity.
But a funny thing happened in the 16 months that followed that night. St-Pierre retired, lifting the curtain on the sport's drug epidemic on his way out; Silva lost just not once, but twice in bizarre fashion; Chael Sonnen unceremoniously exited the spotlight; a rash of injuries swept across the UFC's upper echelon; the promotion's fading draws faded just a bit more.
Suddenly Diaz's enigmatic star power was in higher demand than ever, and those demands that once sounded so outrageous... well, they weren't so outrageous after all.
"I mean, I wasn't going to walk out of there with something I wasn't happy with," Diaz said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "So I just, you know, I was able to score a deal I can't refuse. That's how I look at it.
"I look back and think about why did I take one of these, you know, mediocre level opponents or fights, or something like that. I could see myself going, I didn't need to do that, I didn't need to go there. I'm not fanatical or in love with being an MMA fighter. It's just, I'm the right guy for the job nowadays. Pretty much after my first couple pro fights I wound up being the right guy for the job, so that's why I'm still here, and I'll fight the right fights if I have the opportunity."
Diaz is now set to make his return in a blockbuster showdown against Silva on Jan. 31 at UFC 183. It'll be Silva's first in-cage appearance since suffering a gruesome broken leg in late-2013, and the first foray into middleweight of Diaz's extensive fighting career.
"It's not like I'm going to have to lose weight to make 185," Diaz said. "It's not going to be (something) I'm overly concerned about, especially in this fight, I think, because my opponent is not one of these big, strong guys who like to get through a fight by being strong, so that really doesn't come into play.
"The reach, you could say okay, reach may come into play, but neither of us are getting any taller or shorter for this fight, so there's nothing I can really do about size when it comes to this fight, other than coming in as strong and healthy as I can."
Even with the fight more than two months away, Las Vegas oddsmakers have already instilled Diaz as a near three-to-one betting underdog. Those odds are only likely to climb as the hype swells around Silva's return come 2015, but Diaz, as always, isn't fazed.
"I was supposed to lose every fight that I fought," he said. "For the most part, since the time I was in EliteXC fighting, maybe there were one or two fights here and there that they had me to win, but for the most part I've been an underdog.
"I'm not a kickboxer so I'm going to lose to a kickboxer. I'm not a wrestler, my wrestling sucks, so I'm going to lose to a wrestler. Or you know, I'm fighting somebody twice my age, a long time ago. So I've always been kinda not favored to win. But, you know, I wound up with a decent performance out there or I pulled it off."