After three years on the sidelines, Nate Diaz is back this weekend and the way he tells it, he was in no rush to return to the Octagon on anybody’s terms but his own.
Diaz has not competed since losing a majority decision to Conor McGregor in their rematch at UFC 202 on Aug. 20, 2016. Their first bout just five months prior at UFC 196 saw Diaz hand McGregor a definitive defeat by submitting “The Notorious” with a rear-naked choke in the second round. The events were massively successful, becoming two of the most lucrative pay-per-views in combat sports history.
It was a breakout year for Diaz as far as mainstream recognition goes, but he and the UFC were unable to capitalize on his newfound fame with both parties accusing the other of sabotaging negotiations, a dispute that has kept Diaz out of action. The 30-fight veteran shared his side of the story in an interview with ESPN ahead of his welterweight bout with Anthony Pettis this Saturday at UFC 241 in Las Vegas.
“It was just—I felt like I won my last fight,” Diaz said, giving one reason why he has been out of competition for so long. “I’m not gonna cry over spilt milk, it’s just what it is, especially in this UFC game because I’ve lost a lot of fights that I didn’t lose and even if, let’s just say more so than I think like, I for sure didn’t lose that fight. They treated it like, ‘You lost, go down the list. Get outta here’ type of thing. When [McGregor] lost the first time to me, it was the biggest thing, and he needed his rematch and he’s obsessed with Nate and all this marketing towards how much he needs to get this back and how great he is for actually jumping in there and doing it.
“Hold up. What about all the rematches I’ve always wanted? That’s the s*it what I should have jumped in with my contract, like, ‘Hold up, if I’m gonna do this rematch, I want all my rematches that you guys never gave me.’ I should have done that, but I’ve lost a lot of good months of my life just sitting there sweating fights I’ve lost I didn’t lose. And I’m like, you guys motherf*cking paid me way too much to be sitting here playing this stupid-ass game and doing what you guys want me to do, so I’m cool, I’m gonna step it out. Then two years flew by.”
With Diaz’s status up in the air, he could only watch as McGregor’s profile grew in stature. While a trilogy bout between the two seemed inevitable, McGregor would instead go on to defeat UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205, the promotion’s debut in Madison Square Garden. That win made McGregor a champion at 145 and 155 pounds, the first fighter in UFC history to hold two titles simultaneously.
Mcgregor would then go on to break box office records with a crossover boxing bout against Floyd Mayweather in August 2017, one year after the second Diaz fight.
According to Diaz, with the trilogy bout seemingly out of the picture, UFC officials proposed opponents to him that were nowhere near the level of McGregor as far as name recognition and he took that as a slight especially compared to the favorable matchmaking he believes McGregor has received.
“What am I reaching for now? That’s what I’m saying. I hit the top and then they’re asking me to do this downgraded s*it,” Diaz zaid. “I’m like, okay I see what’s happening here, downgrading me. Degrading my whole—No one’s seeing that and they’re making it look like I’m complaining. I never called. I never called you guys. You guys called me. ‘Hey, what’s up? We know we’re f*cking rude f*cks and we weeded you away and we made you disappear with the Mayweather-McGregor… And Eddie Alvarez, that was a good matchup, that was an easy win for him. He just was put in all the right places. I’m not even f*cking hating on that, that’s cool as hell. It’s cool he’s doing what he did and whatever. But you’re a spoiled little b*tch though because they handed you all that. You didn’t do s*it.
“If you came from where I came from, from the beginning, you wouldn’t have even made it into the fight. The first one. I’m like, throw me some f*cking love out here from time to time. It’s not only love, but it’s just like (makes shoving aside motion)—‘Ooh look, title fight with Eddie.’ Eddie’s easy. I beat [McGregor] in between when he knocked out [Jose] Aldo, I f*cked him up, beat him again but lost, then he fights for a title. Then he fights Mayweather. And then they’re like, ‘F*cking, this guy’s turning down fights.’ Is that not a kick in the ass? Hold up. I don’t need to be a part of none of that. But can I get a compliment?”
Diaz’s path to the first McGregor fight was a winding one. He called for a bout with the rising UFC star after a win over Michael Johnson, then stepped in on short notice at UFC 196 when a matchup between McGregor and Rafael dos Anjos was spoiled by a dos Anjos injury. The rest is history.
Referring back to his memorable callout, Diaz lamented the fact that more fighters haven’t taken the initiative in his absence whether it’s calling out him or somebody else.
“The whole time I’m sitting there waiting, like, when is someone gonna step they stupid-ass up and start calling for a fight? Because that’s what I did,” Diaz said. “You’re the guy getting all the love and all the s*it that I’ve worked hard for and they’re just handing it over and promoting it and I put work in. And if you’re not thinking this guy’s getting what you worked for, you’re f*cking not working hard enough. That’s thought of over miles and rounds and over training f*cking thoughts. A lot of work was put into those thoughts. If you’re not spittin’ that and saying that s*it, then you shouldn’t even be in that position. So I saw what was happening and I went out and took it. ‘Okay, this is what I’m about to do.’ Two years flew by, I’m like, I ain’t gotta be beggin’ nobody to f*cking fight. I don’t need to fight.
“I beat the best guy at the moment, I beat the best guy, and you guys are just treating me like, vanished, then I’m like, ‘Oh well f*ck me, so f*ck you.’ But then after a certain while I’m like, what’s wrong with all these fighters? I’m a bigger draw, a bigger fight than anybody in the game and you guys are going to just sit back and not participate and ‘black sheep’ me—not ‘black sheep,’ it’s like ‘ostracized,’ put me on the outskirts of the whole conversation. ‘He dropped from the rankings, he’s this, that, he’s turning down fights.’ I’m like, dude, you’re going to start offering me prelim fighters and be like, ‘He turned this down.’ You guys were using that against me.”
The closest Diaz came to booking a fight before Saturday was last August, when he was announced to be fighting Dustin Poirier at UFC 230. Poirier and Diaz were both in attendance at a press conference for the bout, but a promo for a bout between McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov appeared to irk Diaz, prompting him to leave, and the situation deteriorated from there.
The fight would eventually be canceled due to a Poirier injury, an excuse that Diaz doesn’t buy.
“Dustin Poirier p*sied out, is what happened,” Diaz said. “We were supposed to fight and there was whatever going on with me and the UFC was happening because they were f*cking with me or I was f*cking with them, however they want to say it, but he jumped out of the fight because he couldn’t deal with it.”
“He couldn’t sleep at night,” Diaz continued. “I’m like, ‘Why are you even worried about me? You’re supposed to be a fighter, don’t worry about what I got going on. I’m showing up to fight you. Why did you pull out and why is no one asking you that? Why are you getting a title shot?’ That’s a win for me, I already beat him. If me and you are supposed to meet for training tomorrow, for jiu-jitsu or boxing or MMA or whatever, we have an appointment. We’re going tomorrow at seven p.m. and we’re going to train. Me and you. And if you get a f*cking stomach ache or your tooth ache or your hair or any of that or something ain’t right or your girlfriend’s mad and you don’t make it to seven o’clock, you lost, dude. You can’t make it, you can’t cut it. Straight up, that’s a L.”
Diaz, who referred to himself as “a Nick Diaz army soldier, always” in homage to his brother, laughed at the UFC removing him from the rankings earlier this year, claiming that the same day that happened he was actually in talks to book a fight.
He also scoffed at the suggestion that he’s been waiting all this time for a third fight with Conor McGregor.
“I wasn’t waiting for him for a second,” Diaz said.
“I’ve done the whole game. I’m a top-2 fighter in the whole game right now, three, maybe, Jon Jones. Three. And that’s not fighting for three years,” Diaz continued. “I don’t need to fight. I sneeze loud and everybody hears about it. But then it’s like, hold up, you guys just want me to sit out and vent, this is what everybody wants, so I’m over here, like, not feeling—I said it after the fight the first time that I was institutionalized in this fight game and stuff, and it really stayed like that. What’s happening was I’m telling myself to take it easy and don’t try and do stuff because I’m not fighting. I’m like, f*ck all that, so I’m training these last three years harder than anybody fighting, so it’s wear and tear. If I’m gonna be training with all my fighters for their fights and training for a lifestyle—it’s been my hobby to train.
“Why label it a fight [camp], like, I’m here for recovery from home. I need to go just train somewhere else, I need the beach and some palm trees, and some nice-looking s*it because where I live is hell. It’s where I grew up in the same thing only from a different perspective now. Because now I got some nice s*it, but I don’t have—I have everything you need, but there’s nothing to do where I live. It’s a smaller town, everything shuts down at 10, 11 o’clock, it’s quiet, I’m living in fight camp with no fights, so something needed to happen. I think the part of not fighting was not even-the fight wasn’t with the fighters no more. They’re not on my level. The fight was with the whole organization. The whole thing. I’m like, ‘Okay, well, I’m losing this fight if I’m just gonna sit here and die off in this little town.’ Because I could go out to all the concerts and do all this cool s*it that’s offered to me all the time, but it’s old.
“I want to just get back to what I do and I didn’t even want to fight when I was fighting for all those years, it’s just what I did, I was on orders from the coach and my bro and living the lifestyle institutionalizing me… So it made my whole life arranged that now. Because I’ve been fighting for—I’m younger than everybody, I’m 34, I’ve been fighting since I was 18, 19 years old. How many years is that? I’m the youngest O.G. in this whole s*it. I’m still here, I’m still winning the series too. Still hopping in and fighting top contenders, doing my thing.”