Nick Diaz never really wants to fight.
Of course, Diaz has never hidden the fact that he doesn’t enjoy fighting, and that hasn’t changed in the six years he’s been away since his previous appearance in 2015. That said, Diaz is back, even if he still has conflicted feelings about his place in the sport.
“I never enjoyed fighting,” Diaz told ESPN.com. “It’s just something that I do. It’s just what I do. I tried to get away from it, but really it’s kind of inevitable. It is. All the people around me and all the money and sponsors, they won’t let me get away from fighting. There’s things I could do, but it’s not going to work out. I might as well just go and take my punches.
“I don’t want to look back and say, ‘Why did I not just do it?’ I feel great to fight, I don’t feel great about everything. But if I don’t do this, I don’t know how I’m going to feel about myself two years down the road if I’m sitting here going, ‘Why didn’t I just go and do these fights I would have won?’”
While Diaz has spent so much of his career ranked as one of the top MMA fighters in the world regardless of weight class, he’s never reveled in his celebrity status, much less the stress that comes with the fight itself.
Diaz said there was a time he was happy with his involvement in the sport. But these days, he feels like fighting is just all he knows, so that’s why it’s so hard for him to stay away.
“Nothing – nothing at all,” Diaz answered when asked what he likes about the sport. “This is not enjoyable. This whole thing is for everybody else. I’m glad that the fans are happy, and that they love [what I’m doing] and that’s just what gets them going. It got me going when I was a kid. Five months in, I was like, ‘In five months I’m going to be good,’ and in five months I was good. Then, ‘After I make 5-0, I’m going to be so good,’ and I didn’t even make it to 5-0, and then I had to go back for more. After that, it was just no way out.
“I see the kids, I try to tell them, are you sure you want to do this, kid? I like to teach and train and be a part of the sport. I’ve got a few fights left, and if I can survive that and keep the ball rolling a little bit, it’s probably a better option than not fighting.”
Despite his feelings toward fighting, Diaz still believes he’s the best at what he does, which is why he would have much rather jumped to the head of the line to clash with reigning UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman than face an old foe like Robbie Lawler for the second time.
In their first meeting in 2004, Diaz knocked Lawler out in the second round — and he really doesn’t want to have to do that to him again. He’d instead prefer to face Usman.
“I do believe that [I’m the best fighter in the world],” Diaz said. “I think I’ll beat the sh*t out of Usman. I’ve got a better shot of beating Usman than I do Lawler, just ‘cause I already beat Lawler. It doesn’t make sense for me to go in there and fight Robbie Lawler again.
“I don’t know why I’m doing this. This should not happen. Whoever set this up is an idiot. I don’t know why I’m doing this. I don’t know why this is happening. I should be fighting Kamaru Usman and that’s it.”
Another reason Diaz is feeling so conflicted ahead of his return at UFC 266 is due to his brother Nate also competing at welterweight these days.
“I don’t want to fight the guys my brother just fought,” Diaz said. “My brother fights at the same weight as me, so it’s like, kind of tough, ‘cause I don’t want to get in his way and he gets in my way, then I get in his way and I’m like, ‘Hey bro, take the whole damn thing ‘cause that’s what I wanted for you, was to be OK.’ I really sacrificed myself for him.
“I’m going to go in there and fight Robbie Lawler again, and he don’t deserve to get his ass whooped, and I know I’m going to beat the sh*t out of him and I don’t wanna. If I lose, I don’t want to lose to Robbie Lawler. I already beat him. That just sucks.”
The inner turmoil Diaz is feeling is nothing new to him, but that won’t stop him from setting foot in the cage come Saturday night.
“I feel pretty good today actually,” Diaz said. “I hope I feel as good fight day as I do today. I just feel ready to fight.”