UFC lightweight Nate Diaz has made no secret of the fact that he is in no rush to return to the world of pro-MMA but by failing to capitalise on the wave of his current momentum, is he making a mistake he may one day live to regret?
The Diaz brothers are widely known to be among the most rebellious, volatile and surprisingly genuine characters in the world of mixed martial arts today. Nick and Nate have made their careers off the back of their entertaining antics both inside and outside of the octagon but it would all be for nothing if they couldn’t back it up with their high-level boxing, inhuman cardio and black-belt level jiu-jitsu.
When you fight a Diaz brother you know you’re facing something more akin to a complex puzzle than an opponent who can be deterred through hard shots and pressure. And though they have both lost their fair share of fights over the years, their infamous durability and toughness have endeared them to fight fans and made them a nightmare for their opponents.
One such opponent who had his fair share of trouble with one of the brothers Diaz is the UFC’s lightweight champion Conor McGregor, who engaged with Nate over the course of two memorable battles in which the Stockton native managed to both finish the Notorious One in the first bout and give him a brutal war in the second. Nick, who was always seen as the bigger star of the two was surpassed by his brother as a result of these two fixtures – at least in terms of mainstream appeal – and despite the huge demand for another outing from the Ultimate Fighter winner, Nate has elected to hit the UFC with a ‘$20m to fight’ – or – retirement ultimatum.
Now I’m not bashing the Cesar-Gracie jiu-jitsu black-belt’s self-valuation, even if it is a tiny bit overinflated, but if the end goal for Nate is to secure himself a big ol’ paycheck, there is most definitely room for him to maybe adjust his plan slightly, especially considering what has happened in the world of MMA in the last few months.
It’s no secret that the UFC is having a major drought in its well of star power right now. You have the aforementioned McGregor, who has the promotion’s unmentionables in a vice-like grip and seems to be free to do whatever he pleases, whether that means taking a year off or even making the switch to the world of boxing. In Ronda Rousey, you have an old pioneer who has simply lost her way in the most dramatic of fashions. A return to combat isn’t impossible for her, but it does seem unlikely that she’ll be coming back anytime soon.
Jon Jones and Brock Lesnar are no-gos as of right now, and the legendary Georges St-Pierre is apparently unwilling to give up his valuable Under Armour endorsement to don the mandatory Reebok fight kits the UFC have brought in since his departure.
What Nate needs to understand – or even express in his plans – is that the UFC need him right now. It’s debatable whether or not he’s a $1 million PPV buy kind of man but when you look at the current roster he’s most definitely among the biggest names out there and would guarantee better numbers than a lot of the numbered event headliners right now.
What I feel Nate should do is take a fight against someone, anyone, be it the likes of Donald Cerrone, José Aldo or even the loser of Nurmagomedov/Ferguson. If he takes a fight with a relatively big name and gets the win, he’ll once again find himself with a very good chance of getting his rubber match with McGregor. He’s made it clear that he wants $20 million and nothing else, and there’s a chance that he may not even be interested in fighting anymore but if he is, then to take this route could be the best play for him.
Public interest is the name of the game, and it’s most certainly the only language McGregor speaks, so for Nate to go out there and make a statement to both the Irishman and the fans who invest their hard-earned money in the shows is absolutely paramount.
In his last three fights, his win over Michael Johnson and the pair with McGregor, we saw the best Nate we’ve ever seen and I do believe that in the time since his loss to Rafael dos Anjos in 2014, he has come into his prime and improved a great deal. The guy loves to fight and, just like his brother Nick, his plans for the future as far as scheduled opponents go will more than likely have minimal influence over his training regime. You can be certain that both Diaz brothers are still in there every morning, training, teaching and improving. This, for me, is what makes the return of Nick Diaz so interesting, he’s not the type to become lax in his approach to his studies, no matter how much time he spends away and you better believe the same can be said for Nate.
Time off for the Diaz brothers is time spent doing triathlons, working with high level boxers and rolling with world-class BJJ practitioners. They live the fight life to its fullest so if Nate truly does want to get back into the octagon and secure himself that big money fight before it’s too late, I believe the path for him over the coming year is a clear one.
It’s also very possible, however, that he just doesn’t give a s**t either way…
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena