With 25 minutes the maximum fight time allowed in the Unified Rules, Luque would need to fight regulators just to get his fight with Diaz. But during an interview for MMA Fighting’s Portuguese-language podcast Trocação Franca, he revealed he’s preparing for a potential bout with Diaz, and the UFC is well aware that he’s all in.
“If it’s up to me, it’s happening,” Luque said. “I’m already training with that mindset. I’ll be ready for December. The UFC knows I’m interested, that I’m in. Nate seems to be in as well, at least he said that on Twitter, so, to me, it’s a deal. Just give me the date, I’m already training for it. I’ll be prepared.”
Luque won 10 of his past 11 bouts in the UFC and sits at No. 6 in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings, with Diaz currently outside the top-15. The Stockton native, however, is way more popular than most of those at the top of the welterweight list, and that’s what Luque is counting on right now.
“Right now, I need to make big fights,” said Luque, who scored first-round submissions over Michael Chiesa and Tyron Woodley in 2021. “I’m on a good streak, I’m in a good position in the ranking today, and I think maybe still lacks something to get that [title shot]. We have Leon Edwards, who’s on a great streak. On a sports point of view I think he deserves the next title shot, so I need to do something to change UFC’s mind and go like, ‘No, Vicente deserves it, let’s jump him ahead.’ I think one more fight could guarantee me the title shot next. I think Nate would be the guy, with his name and history in the UFC, that could be push me as the next title contender.”
The Diaz brothers have convinced the UFC to make their recent bouts five-round affairs even though they weren’t headlining cards nor competing for championship belts, with Nate losing a decision to Edwards and Nick Diaz coming up short in his rematch with Robbie Lawler. Luque wants to raise that, going 10 rounds with the Stockton star.
“I love to fight, I love challenges,” Luque said. “I’ve never fought five rounds before, but if I have to go 10 rounds right away, that’s even better. It would be a bigger challenge, and against a guy that I know has plenty of cardio. Nate has great cardio. The longer the fight goes the better for him, so it’s a perfect guy to test me, to see if I can go 10 rounds. I want the challenge, and that motivates me a lot.
“The reason I fight is because I love this sport and I don’t want easy fights, to fight in my comfort zone. I want to challenge myself, I want the toughest fights, and I think Nate is a great fight right now. Leon Edwards dominated that fight really well and Nate still put him in danger in the end, so you can’t say he’s finished. He’s still young, he’s still dangerous with his hands, so it’s an interesting fight.”
Diaz only has fight fight left in his deal with the UFC, and company president Dana White recently implied, during an interview with TSN, that Diaz pursuing free agency and more money could mean he’s “doubting” he “can win a world title here, or hang with the top five,” meaning maybe the UFC shouldn’t be his place anymore.
Diaz, 3-3 over his past six with wins over Michael Johnson, Conor McGregor and Anthony Pettis, took on social media to accept Luque’s callout, but the UFC hasn’t booked it yet. Days later, Diaz posted a picture of former interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson. For Luque, is seems that Diaz is just “in agony to fight” and become a free agent.
If Luque-Diaz doesn’t come to fruition, the Brazilian welterweight aims at the top of the division for his next assignment. The problem is that everyone ranked ahead of him is currently booked, with the except of his longtime training partner and friend Gilbert Burns, who’s not an option for him.
“If they call me on the week [of the fight], I’d find a way [to make weight],” Luque said. “If Kamaru wins, there’s a chance — a slight chance, but there’s a chance I jump over Edwards, depending on how his fight with [Jorge] Masvidal goes.”
“Right now, I’m staying ready,” he continued. “I love to be ready in case of any opportunity, so, if there’s one in November, if I have to replace someone, I’ll stay ready for that. I’ll be training for that. If I get booked for December, I’m already training with this mindset as well. For now I’ll stay ready and see what happens in the Kamaru-Colby fight. After that, we’ll have a better understanding of what will happen in the division.”