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Nate Diaz scoffs at idea he's not a ‘needle mover’: I’ll lose this fight and they’ll put me on another main event

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Nate Diaz's recent 12-month hiatus wasn't of his own choosing, if the Stockton native is to be believed. Diaz was presumed to have spent the better part of the year languishing on the sidelines in protest of his UFC contract, but when asked about his absence on Thursday, Diaz told MMAFighting.com that his lengthy time off was the UFC's own doing, and that he never said he didn't want to fight.

"It's about time," Diaz said of his co-main event slot against Rafael dos Anjos at UFC on FOX 13. "I've been waiting all year to fight. I heard a lot of sh*t pushed around in the media that I was turning down fights. That was never the case. I was bashed in the media. [The UFC and I] never really had a conversation. Dana White called me personally and then we made a fight happen, but before it was all kind of hearsay, they were bashing me saying I'm turning down fights. That was never the case.

"I wish I would've been active. I don't even wish, I was content with the time I had I off, but I don't even really think of it as time off because I was always preparing to fight because I thought I was going to get the call and have to fight at any time, like I have for the last 10 years."

A one-time TUF winner and veteran of the UFC for nearly a decade, Diaz said that he did indeed ask for his contract to be renegotiated following a Nov. 2013 win over Gray Maynard, but that the promotion responded only by publicly stating that Diaz had turned down a proposed fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov.

"I never said that," Diaz said. "[This is] exactly what I said: ‘can I renegotiate my contract?' They could've said no, but they didn't even say no. So I was just like, okay, you're going to bash me in the public like that for no reason, that's cool."

The acrimony between the two sides stretched well into the summer, with Diaz's name being arbitrarily removed from the UFC's official media-generated rankings due to 'inactivity,' and UFC President Dana White infamously defending the promotion's stance against renegotiating Diaz's contract by stating that Diaz wasn't "a needle mover."

"I love Nate Diaz," White said in July. "Nate Diaz is actually one of my favorite kids. I always got along with Nate, Nate was always great. Lowest rated FOX show ever. Lowest rated FOX show ever. His numbers, he doesn't pull the numbers in. Nick (Diaz) is a needle mover. Nick moves the needle. [Nate] doesn't pull good numbers.

"He seems like he's popular when you're looking on f**king Twitter and some website," White continued. "But the numbers, the real numbers, tell the truth. We know who moves needles and who doesn't move needles. If Nate Diaz was a massive needle mover, we'd have called him. He'd be on the phone, we'd be figuring it out and we'd work it out. He doesn't move the needle."

Diaz and the UFC ultimately settled their differences, however the irony of returning from a one-year hiatus straight into a high-profile slot -- his fifth main or co-main event over his last six fights -- was not lost on Diaz when asked about White's statements.

"I already knew," Diaz said. "Come on. I'll lose this fight and they'll bring me back and put me on another main event, co-main event. And then they probably won't because I just said that. But it don't matter, you're still going to sell the card with me or somebody who's been around long enough, because everyone's new.

"There's great fighters, (Junior) dos Santos, Matt Mitrione, (Stefan) Struve, there's stars on this card, this is a great card. But don't give me that [line] that it's not going to be me who's a part of making any income for you guys. Know your role. Fighters need to know their position."