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Nate Diaz on UFC-Reebok deal: ‘They’re dragging us all [around] and no one has any say in it’

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Nate Diaz's fight week ahead of UFC on FOX 13 has been interesting, to say the least. A veteran with a rocky history of dealings with the UFC, including a recent yearlong contract holdout, Diaz first missed Wednesday's open workouts, then badly missed weight at Friday's weigh-ins. But the most noteworthy of Diaz's performances came at Thursday's media day, when for an hour Diaz spoke about as bluntly as a UFC fighter ever has, offering his honest and critical thoughts on everything from the UFC's signing of CM Punk to the promotion's partnership with Reebok.

Aside from the UFC's talking points that sponsorship income will be weighted by a fighter's ranking and fighters will receive 20-percent of royalties from their own branded products, financial details of the shift away from in-cage sponsors to Reebok-produced uniforms remain murky at best. Nevertheless, Diaz counts himself among skeptics who question whether the program will ultimately be beneficial for fighters when it rolls out July 2015.

"I think it's silly that it's going to be like we're all a big-ass cult," Diaz told reporters. "The same guys wearing the same thing. We're already walking around the streets and people are like, ‘hey, the UFC.' I don't even have a name anymore. Now you're going to put everybody in the same uniform. It's like a private school.

"I think it's great for the UFC and everything. If they're going to pay the fighters out too, that's more than great, because you know the UFC is getting all kinds of money for it. ... Even $100,000 in sponsor money is nothing compared to (what) you know the UFC is making on that. I heard them do an interview that they're getting absolutely nothing and 20-percent of profit are going to the fighters? If 20-percent is going to the fighters, where's the other 80-percent going? I think no one's saying stuff like that.

"It doesn't help me because the UFC does what they want," Diaz continued. "I heard that they're paying people according to the rankings, so how does that help me when I was bashed on the internet for a whole year and they removed me from the rankings because they were bored? As far as I'm concerned, I'm the No. 1 guy and the UFC pulled me out because they didn't like the way I said something. But I didn't like the way they said something either, and now they're going to pull me from the rankings. So this whole deal with sponsorship, it don't help me, and it doesn't help anybody if somebody says what they feel like saying or does something [the UFC] doesn't want them to do, and they're pulled from the rankings.

"That's the reality of it. But because they're like, stop talking -- after this interview right here, I'll probably be No. 28 or something like that."

A TUF winner who made his UFC debut when the promotion reintroduced its lightweight division in 2007, Diaz has gradually established himself as one of the division's mainstays, amassing a 12-7 UFC record while drawing a cult following for his brash style and victories over the 155-pound elite. Of late though, Diaz has often found himself at odds with the promotion's practices.

The tension between the two sides crested this past summer when Diaz arbitrarily lost his No. 6 ranking due to ‘inactivity' in the midst of a contract dispute -- a move that would have significantly impacted his earning potential under the UFC's new sponsorship system.

Diaz is now back in action, ranked No. 14 and slated to fight Rafael dos Anjos at UFC on FOX 13, but he hasn't been shy about voicing his displeasure with the direction the UFC is headed.

"I'm telling you, this is a cult," Diaz said. "They're dragging us all [around] and no one has any say in it. If these guys would all start speaking up a little bit about what they think, I'd give them props. But no one has to do anything, that's just how I feel about the situation. I could to be fired tomorrow. I hope not. I want to work for the UFC forever. But I also would like to be treated like, you know, we're not caged animals. I feel like we're professionals.

"And that's another thing too, they're putting these things on us, these uniforms, like, ‘finally we made it to uniforms like the pros, like the NFL and the NHL.' And ... I know a lot of people get paid less and get treated worse than me, but it's hard for me to act like a professional when we're getting treated worse than the semi-pros. I got partners on semi-pro hockey teams and baseball teams, and they're getting paid the same or more than me on a good year. No one knows these guys. No offense, but I'm saying we go to the mall and no one knows these guys. So they're treating us like, oh we're in the pros, and everybody's tweeting, ‘yay! Reebok! Dana White! I'm so happy we did this deal, stepping it up to a new level!' And it's like, it ain't going to help many of you guys. I've been here already 10 years in the UFC, or going on nine years, and stuff's not changing.

"Speaking up and kissing ass ain't going to get you nowhere."

UFC President Dana White finally acknowledged Diaz's apparent discontent from Las Vegas on Friday, saying on FOX Sports 1, "I don't know what to do with him if he wins. There's a laundry list of problems there."

Even Diaz himself admitted that, in some respects, his ongoing criticism of the UFC sometimes sounds like a broken record. But ultimately that's just Diaz. As one of the 155-pound division's longest tenured and biggest draws, he's always been a fighter unafraid to speak his speak his mind, and his recent hiatus only seems to have emboldened him further down that path.

"I've been in the UFC for, like I said, eight years now," Diaz said. "I think I've been a contender in this division for longer than anybody in the UFC. Everybody else gets weeded out. They win four fights, everybody is like ‘this is the next guy,' and then they lose a fight, then they come back and win, then they lose two fights and they're on their way and that was the peak of their career. But people have thought I've been at the peak of my career a couple times and I've had some losses and I'm still here. It's taken a lot of training and hard work and you've got to be strong mentally and physically to be able to stand this sh*t.

"Everybody else is a new guy. They've been here two years, three or four years, and they're calling me out and they're doing this ‘I'm a superstar thing.' We'll see in three fight if you're even still in the UFC. Most of the time they're not, they get weeded out. It's a rough game to stay in this.

"If anybody is just getting paid out on this deal, which some people are and I know and are supportive of it, by all means, then I'm right 100-percent with it. But I feel like we should... I'm not even going to talk about ‘we.' Me, I feel like I should be compensated enough by the company and taken care of the same way I've represented for the UFC for as many years as I've been here. I feel like I should be taken care of enough by them to where the sponsorship shouldn't even matter to me if they were giving me nothing. It's big company. It's making a lot of money. I just wish it would give back what I've put in."