Nick Diaz's settlement did not come without concessions.
On Tuesday, the Nevada Athletic Commission unanimously approved the terms of a deal with Diaz, reducing his suspension to 18 months and his fine to $100,000. The NAC had previously suspended Diaz for five years and fined him $165,000 in September for testing positive for marijuana for the third time in the state.
Diaz will now be able to fight as early as Aug. 1. That's the good news. However, in order for the deal to go through, Diaz had to declare in writing that he "wrongfully" took the Fifth Amendment in the original hearing.
In the declaration, Diaz said his legal counsel advised him to take the Fifth "when questioned by the Commission regarding my use of marijuana and, more particularly, whether I used marijuana prior to the January 31, 2015 fight."
Lucas Middlebrook was Diaz's attorney on Sept. 14. After the NAC's ruling, the UFC lent Diaz its law firm, Campbell & Williams, as an addition to his legal team. Diaz wrote in the declaration that Campbell & Williams had different advice with regards to the Fifth Amendment.
Nick Diaz - Declaration in Support of Motion for Reconsideration (Final Filed)
"After conferring with new counsel," Diaz wrote, "I determined that I wrongfully invoked Fifth Amendment in response to relevant questions posed by members of the Commission and that I should have, and would have, testified to the Commission that I did not use marijuana 'in-competition,' as that term is defined by the World Anti-Doping Agency ('WADA') in its Anti-Doping Code.""
Middlebrook told MMA Fighting on Tuesday night that the Fifth Amendment controversy was a pivotal part of the settlement agreement.
"It became apparent that the NAC wanted the Fifth Amendment issue as part of any negotiated settlement and therefore the choice was between lengthy litigation or having Nick resume his career this summer," Middlebrook said. "While I, along with my team, still fully stand by Nick's invocation of his Constitutional rights and maintain it was the right legal decision, our main focus was resuming Nick's career. I truly hope moving forward that due process of the law is a reality and not just a legal catchphrase."
(Update: Middlebrook withdrew as Diaz's counsel for the case Monday, according to a public document obtained from the NAC.)
Diaz's use of the Fifth Amendment, the Constitution's protection against self-incrimination, was a major sticking point in September. NAC commissioner Pat Lundvall took umbrage with the decision, saying that she would infer a negative answer to any question in which Diaz took the Fifth.
Lundvall went on to ask Diaz query after query with Diaz saying "Fifth Amendment" over and over. Middlebrook objected to the multitude of questions when Diaz's legal team already made it clear that he would be taking the Fifth to anything asked of him.
After deliberations, Lundvall motioned initially for a lifetime ban of Diaz. That motion was struck down and the commissioners came to the consensus of a five-year suspension and $165,000 fine.
It is worth noting that the NAC is not a criminal court, but an administrative hearing. On Tuesday, the commissioners did not mention or discuss the terms of Diaz's settlement agreement before approving it. NAC executive director Bob Bennett declined comment to reporters on the scene.
Nick Diaz - Settlement Agreement (Final Filed)
Middlebrook's main defense in September was that Diaz passed two drug tests at UFC 183 and the only one he failed was tested at a lab not accredited by WADA. Nevada deputy attorney general Christopher Eccles argued that the two negative tests were diluted and that Diaz lied on his pre-fight questionnaire about having taken any drugs in the 30 days leading up to the fight.
The five-year suspension for a marijuana-related offense drew mainstream outrage and a White House online petition earned more than 100,000 signatures within a month of the hearing. The commission never filed a written decision, which opened the door for settlement discussions.