When Nick Diaz retired from mixed martial arts -- both the first time and second time -- he pledged only to return to the sport for one of three things: a fight against Georges St-Pierre, a fight against Anderson Silva, or a fight with a UFC title on the line.
As luck would have it, all three of Diaz's demands would eventually be answered. In March 2013, Diaz allowed the UFC welterweight strap to slip through his fingers, wilting under a deluge of takedowns from then-champion St-Pierre. Now Diaz is scheduled to dance with Silva on Jan. 31 at UFC 183.
This time, however, a UFC title won't be on the line. And according to Diaz, that's just fine.
"It's not about winning the belt at this point," Diaz said on a Thursday conference call. "For me, I already fought some of the best people there are. I already did, you know, what I need to do for me. So now it's just more about, you know, having the right fights, making the right deals. Because for me, the guys who I beat are already the best there are."
When Diaz returns to the cage next Saturday, he'll do so 686 days removed from the last night fight fans saw him don his four-ounce gloves, and more than five years removed the last time he competed above the 170-pound welterweight limit.
Whether the trip to middleweight is a mere one-off or part of some greater plan, Diaz wouldn't say, stating only that he has to "survive this fight" before he can make any decisions about his future.
Though at this point, the 31-year-old appears resolute on one thing. The Silva fight is as marquee an opportunity as exists in this sport, as was the St-Pierre fight before it, as was Diaz's 2011 interim title shot against Carlos Condit. So if Diaz decides to continue forward with his mixed martial arts career, the name standing across from him better be one that prompts that 'big fight' feel.
"At this point in time, they're going to use me to fight the most important guys. Because these guys they got out there right now aren't very... they're not really shining too hard," Diaz said.
"So they'll use me anytime they need a guy for a good fight. (When) they need a real fighter who fights the way that they want to see, then all they gotta do is make a deal with me."