Nick Diaz never has been one to hold back, whether it be in the cage or talking with the media.
On Wednesday, three days before he returns to the Octagon after more than six years away, Diaz spoke of his “resentment” toward mixed martial arts, wondered aloud why he even is competing against Robbie Lawler on Saturday at UFC 266 and maintained his long-held disdain toward fighting.
“All the people around me and all the money and the sponsors, they won’t let me get away from fighting,” Diaz said in a sit-down interview with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto. “There’s things I could do, but that’s not gonna 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 don’t feel great. I feel great to fight. I don’t feel great about everything [else]. If I don’t do this, I don’t know how I’m going to feel about myself.”
Diaz, 38, said during his time off he had plans to open a gym and teach students, and maybe even travel around some and do seminars. But he said things didn’t work out with the business partners he was dealing with and that the plans were “fake.” That is what led him back to fighting.
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“It’s just what I do,” Diaz said. “I tried to get away from it, but really it’s just kind of inevitable.”
Diaz never has been shy about discussing his very mixed feelings toward MMA. One of the most popular fighters in the UFC, he said he knows the fans are excited to see him competing again and that he loves them. But Diaz has said for more than a decade that he doesn’t like to fight and that time away has not changed his mind. Diaz has not competed since a fight with Anderson Silva at UFC 183 in January 2015.
“I’m going in there to win,” Diaz said of Saturday’s bout against Lawler. “Do I feel confident? I never do. I never have. I always feel like I’m going to get trashed out there. Every fight I’ve ever done. ‘How do you feel against Robbie Lawler?’ I feel like I’m going to get the s— beat out of me. And even when I win, I get beat up worse.”
Actually, Diaz went a step further and said he shouldn’t even be fighting Lawler in the first place. Diaz has already beaten Lawler — way back in 2004 — and the Stockton, California, native believes he should actually be challenging Kamaru Usman for his UFC welterweight title. Despite all the doubts, Diaz said he still believes he’s the best fighter in the world. Just because he thinks Lawler might beat him doesn’t necessarily mean Diaz thinks he’ll lose.
“I think I’ll beat the s— out of Usman,” Diaz said. “I’ll have a better shot against Usman than I do Lawler, just because I already beat Lawler. This doesn’t make sense for me to go in 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 happened. I should be fighting Kamaru Usman — and that’s it.”
One of the things that added to his current issues, Diaz said, was attending his brother Nate’s fight with Leon Edwards at UFC 263 in June. Edwards won that bout by unanimous decision, though Nate almost knocked him out late. Nick Diaz, who is two years older than Nate, said he didn’t like seeing his brother taking damage in that bout and then seeing him get stitched up in the back.
“Being away for five years and coming back and seeing that, that was something new,” Diaz said of his brother’s fight with Edwards. “It really kind of knocked my block off. I took harder punches watching that than I ever did in sparring or in any fights. It’s my baby brother, you know? It’s hard to watch him fight.”
Diaz (26-9, 2 NC) was winless in three fights before his six-year absence. His last win came against BJ Penn in 2011. Even so, Diaz remains a cult favorite among MMA fans. He won 11 straight at one point, is the former Strikeforce welterweight champion and is known for his all-action, pushing-forward style.
Diaz clearly has doubts about competing again but added that Lawler “doesn’t deserve to get his ass whopped and I know I’m gonna beat the s— out of him.” Diaz said he believes he’s more dangerous now than he was six years ago as a competitor. But that doesn’t change his relationship with MMA itself.
“I have a lot of resentment toward the sport for taking so much from me and not giving anything back,” Diaz said. “This is great. They’re promoting this fight. I didn’t expect to be the main event or anything like that.”
Diaz said he’s just being real. He said every fighter thinks similar things on fight week, has similar doubts and misgivings. But they don’t air it out like he does. Diaz said other fighters are “full of s—” and that if they’re not faking being happy during fight week they “must be crazy.”
“I love to help people and I love to be part of the sport,” Diaz said. “But I don’t love what it’s done to me. Especially in the last seven months, the last two years. So yeah, I’ve got a shot at dragging some of this back. So I’m gonna go for it.
“I feel like that every fight. I’m kind of a dark and dim person leading up to a fight. I just despise these people who are happy to go out there.”
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