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Nick Diaz in settlement talks with Nevada Athletic Commission, could fight as early as 2016

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Nick Diaz might not be suspended for five years after all. Actually, he could be back by next year.

The popular UFC fighter's legal team is currently in settlement talks with the Nevada Athletic Commission, sources told MMA Fighting. One source with knowledge of the situation said that Diaz could actually be back in the Octagon by sometime in 2016.

Diaz posted Tuesday night on Instagram that talks with the NAC were "going well." He has also mentioned on social media that the UFC's law firm, Campbell & Williams, was involved in talks. Legal correspondent Amy Dardashtian tweeted the possibility of a Diaz-NAC settlement Tuesday night as well.

In September, the NAC ruled that Diaz would be suspended for five years and fined $165,000 for failing a drug test for marijuana at UFC 183 in January. It was his third weed offense in the state. The commission also felt Diaz lied on his pre-fight questionnaire when he said he had not taken any drugs within 30 days of his main event bout with Anderson Silva.

The lengthy suspension for a drug that is not performance enhancing brought a considerable amount of criticism from fans, media and even celebrities. The NAC also went against its own proposed guidelines for lengths of suspensions, which said a third offense for marijuana would net a fighter three years. A White House petition to get the ruling overturned earned more than 100,000 signatures.

Diaz's lead counsel Lucas Middlebrook planned on filing a petition for judicial review, however he told MMA Fighting on Tuesday night that the NAC has yet to provide the decision in writing. Middlebrook would not comment any further on the talks.

"It's a work in progress," he said.

A message left with NAC executive director Bob Bennett was not returned Tuesday night.