Despite winning just one UFC fight in more than nine years, and none since the fall of 2011, MMA veteran Nick Diaz believes that he’s one of the sport’s hottest tickets now that he’s finally returned from an 18-month suspension for a third failed drug test.
But as crazy as it may sound, Diaz might actually be in for the type of big money fight he feels he deserves now that the UFC’s welterweight belt has changed hands.
In the main event of last weekend’s UFC 201, Tyron Woodley shocked the welterweight world with a first-round knockout victory over Robbie Lawler to claim the 170-pound crown, and immediately following his win, the division’s newly-crowned king told top welterweight contender and Fox Sports‘ commentator Stephen Thompson–who actually deserves the next title shot, that Diaz tops his list of potential opponents.
”I think Nick Diaz comes off suspension in two days, he’s a money fight, I’ve been in this game, I’m a OG, I’ve been here for a while and I want to make the big dough,” said Woodley. ”So if he wants to fight in August with his brother Nate Diaz, I think me and him and share that event. I’m uninjured, August, I’m ready to go 202. Let’s make the money.”
”I think he [Diaz] deserves it, I think he’s put enough butts in the seats, he deserves to make that payday. So, let’s go get it,” added Woodley.
While it’s now no real surprise when a UFC champion chooses to chase the money before going after Octagon glory, few figured that Nick Diaz would be the one who stands to benefit from Woodley’s upset win. And considering how close he came to taking a much longer forced vacation, Diaz is lucky that a future in the UFC is even an option.
After deciding against a lifetime ban, the Nevada State Athletic Commission initially handed Diaz a five-year suspension for his third marijuana-related offense in September of 2015. However, because only one of the three tests administered to Diaz tested positive for marijuana metabolites, the NSAC decided to reduce his ban, which technically began the day after his last fight in January of 2015, to a very generous 18 months.
During his absence, Nick has watched as younger brother Nate Diaz has fought his way back to the center of the sport after a period of irrelevance with a career-saving victory over Conor McGregor in March that’s left the Irishman obsessed with revenge and extended Diaz’ stay in the spotlight.
But even when he was active, Nick hasn’t done much worth mentioning for quite some time. Most recently, Diaz dropped a unanimous-decision to Anderson Silva at UFC 183 in January of 2015 that was eventually declared a ”no contest” after both Silva and Diaz failed drug tests. Prior to that disaster, Diaz hadn’t graced the Octagon with his presence since losing to Georges St. Pierre nearly two years earlier at UFC 158.
While speaking to ESPN on Monday, Diaz sounded as though he enjoyed the time off before employing what may turn out to be a clever tactic by claiming that he isn’t even all that interested in returning to the Octagon.
”I don’t need none of this [expletive],” claimed Diaz. ”I walk around—people know who I am. I’ve got friends. I can make ends meet. I grew up around people who have been hustling from the start, so I think I’ve got a bright little future ahead of me—especially if I don’t fight. Why would I want to go out there and fight with somebody, get my face punched and kicked. It’s not my idea of a good time.”
The question is whether or not fight fans would really turn out in big-money numbers to watch a fighter like Woodley, who isn’t well known by the type of casual fans needed to send pay-per-view revenues through the roof, take on an opponent who hasn’t won a single fight in nearly five years.
Diaz and Woodley might not like the answer to that one crucial question, but either way, you can bet that we’ll hear about it as both look to cash in on the UFC’s recent turn towards big-money bouts.
[Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images]