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Dana White says Nick Diaz exceeded expectations at UFC 266: ‘He looked damn good’

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MMA: SEP 21 UFC Press Conference Photo by Louis Grasse/PxImages

Nick Diaz may not have won his long-awaited return to the cage at UFC 266, but he left a good impression on one person in particular: UFC president Dana White.

Speaking Tuesday at the UFC’s Contender Series post-fight press conference, White heaped praise on Diaz’s performance, which saw the 38-year-old former UFC title challenger lose via third-round TKO after Diaz stopped the bout of his own volition following a back-and-forth brawl with former UFC champion Robbie Lawler on the pay-per-view card.

“I thought Nick Diaz looked incredible considering he hasn’t fought in five years,” White told reporters in Las Vegas. “I don’t know what I was expecting. You never know what to get with the [Diaz] brothers, but let me tell you what — with a five-year layoff, I thought he looked unbelievable. And I don’t know if you guys saw Robbie after the fight, but Robbie had freaking knots and lumps all over him. Those two went to war.

“I thought Robbie was just going to go out there and buzz-saw through him — and that was not the case.”

Diaz’s comeback at UFC 266 was one long in the making. The Stockton native and former Strikeforce champion previously hadn’t fought since a January 2015 bout against Anderson Silva. It also was a rematch 17 years in the making — Diaz and Lawler first collided in April 2004 at UFC 47, with Diaz winning a memorable bout via second-round knockout.

Questions about Diaz’s state of mind surrounded him throughout much of fight week. He expressed doubts about his return in his first UFC 266 interview with ESPN, and pushed for his bout against Lawler to be switched from a five-round welterweight fight to a five-round middleweight bout less than a week out from the event. Despite that, Diaz showed up Saturday with his trademark style in full effect, out-landing Lawler by a margin of 150 significant strikes to 131 until “Ruthless” connected with a third-round combination that dropped Diaz to the canvas and ultimately led Diaz to wave off the fight.

It remains up in the air whether Diaz’s return at UFC 266 was simply a one-off or the start of a new chapter to his MMA career. White is just as unsure as the rest of the world in regards to Diaz’s next move, but he’s a fan nonetheless of the effort he saw on Saturday.

“I don’t know,” White said when asked about Diaz’s next move. “I honestly don’t know the answer to that question, but he looked damn good. That kid’s got a massive heart, he’s obviously super talented fighter, and yeah, I was impressed.”