Nate Diaz is back in the mix at welterweight, but it doesn’t appear that a matchup with former interim champion Colby Covington is of any interest to him.
Besides, he has to figure out who Covington is first.
Competing for the first time since August 2016, Diaz returned to his winning ways with a unanimous decision nod over Anthony Pettis in the co-main event of UFC 241 in Anaheim, California, on Saturday. The last time Diaz was in the Octagon, he lost a majority decision in a rematch with Conor McGregor and since that time the 170-pound landscape has shifted considerably.
McGregor remains one of the UFC’s biggest stars, but moved back down to 155 pounds for fights with Eddie Alvarez and Khabib Nurmagomedov (not to mention a crossover boxing bout with Floyd Mayweather a year after the second Diaz bout). Ben Askren was finally brought in. Up-and-comers like Leon Edwards and Santiago Ponzinibbio continued to roll. And Kamaru Usman stamped himself as the man to beat.
But the welterweight whose profile arguably changed the most dramatically is Covington. “Chaos” actually fought at UFC 202 on the same card as McGregor-Diaz 2 and was in the early stages of what would become a seven-fight win streak. As his victories piled up, Covington increased his media presence by touting his right-wing sensibilities and repeatedly insulting the other contenders in his division. He defeated Rafael dos Anjos to capture an interim UFC title in June of last year and has been entrenched at the top of the rankings ever since.
Covington was in attendance at Honda Center on Saturday and when he was shown on the arena screens, he drew a loud reaction from the crowd, who jeered him during a main card bout between Derek Brunson and Ian Heinisch. That scene prompted a reporter at the evening’s post-fight press conference to ask Diaz if he’s considering Covington for a future fight.
“Who is it?” Diaz answered, when Covington’s name was brought up.
“I don’t know who that is,” Diaz said. “If we got somebody good to fight, that’s who I want to fight. That’s what I’m saying. You’ve got to do something. If you’ve been here for two weeks and get a little hype show, I don’t give a shit.”
Diaz, who had said in the lead-up to his comeback fight that he was unimpressed with the current crop of UFC names, also used a question about becoming a father last year to take another shot at his competition.
“I’ve been a father for years,” Diaz said. “Fathering all kinds of these little motherf*ckers.”
It’s been a rocky road for Diaz since the McGregor fight helped take his popularity to the next level, with the 34-year-old Californian unable to capitalize on his newfound fame. Diaz and UFC president Dana White have both claimed the other is difficult to work with, which has played a part in Diaz’s inactivity.
After Diaz’s win over Pettis, White acknowledged that Diaz has become “a needle-mover,” a term he specifically refused to bestow upon the fighter five years ago. With UFC 241 reportedly bringing in a gate of over $3 million and potentially trending towards a strong pay-per-view number, Diaz appreciated White’s praise even if he doesn’t feel the situation has changed all that much.
“Yeah, he knew then too though. That’s not a good business move to tell me I’m the shit, you know what I’m saying?,” Diaz said. “Because then I’m gonna be like, give me the shit money. Give me some ‘I’m the shit money,’ you feel me? And then he had to do what he had to do, so I ain’t mad at him either for that, but it’s cool that he’s acknowledging [my popularity].”
The name that Diaz called out immediately following his win was Jorge Masvidal, a fellow MMA lifer who has seen his stock skyrocket this year. “Gamebred” escaped Diaz’s wrath as Diaz told Joe Rogan in his post-fight interview that he doesn’t think too highly of all the fighters who he believes failed to step up in his absence.
Later, he elaborted on why he didn’t just take easy fights over the last few years to pad his bank account and why a matchup with Masvidal is so intriguing to him now.
“Look at it from the outside perspective, if you’re watching a fight, or even if you want to be a fighter. I’m looking for a bad-ass fight, somebody to f*cking whup someone’s ass and recognize the other guy who’s whupping someone’s ass and be like, ‘Hey, I’m the head ass-whupper here,” Diaz said. “I want some of you then.’ I did that with Conor, because they were promoting him like he was the top dog of this whole thing and that was making me hot. It was nothing personal against dude because all respect for anybody who’s gonna get theirs, you’ve got to get yours, but if you’re gonna just not acknowledge the fact that I’m here and been here and-when did Pettis start fighting? And Conor? Them fools was probably watching me fight in the UFC when they was in high school. I’m like, you better recognize, so I’m disrespected, that’s why I gotta get these fights, like, ‘What’s up?’ That’s the shit I want to see if I’m watching the game.
“I always say like, when you get a video game like Street Fighter, who are you gonna pick? I want to pick the baddest looking motherf*cker right there who does the coolest shit and I believe that I’m the coolest out of all these sorry motherf*ckers who just sat around for three years and let me whip Conor McGregor’s ass and then nobody said nothing. Like, what? I would have been like, ‘That’s the best, baddest dude, he called out dude, he got the fight, he whipped him, and then they robbed him, and then he’s out for three years.’
“Why didn’t somebody step up like, ‘Hey, if he’s out for three years, get yo’ ass back in the game and I’m gonna whip your ass,’ and then I’ll be like ooh, I got to step back in the game real quick and fight that guy because I can’t be going to the coffee shop and have somebody say, ‘Man, that guy said he’s gonna whip your ass.’ I’m like, naw, he’s not gonna whup my ass, that’s why I’m gonna fight him. So there’s your blueprint.”