On Tuesday night, Nate Diaz announced in an Instagram post that he is “sick of sitting around waiting” and that he plans to return to the octagon in May or June.
It was an exciting revelation from the entertaining Stockton slug n’ sub specialist, who hasn’t fought since losing a majority decision to bitter rival Conor McGregor in a riveting rematch at UFC 202 in August of 2016 and has been sorely missed.
While the announcement stirred a jubilant reaction among MMA fans, it didn’t stimulate the expected flurry of social media calls outs from fighters looking to land a crack at one of the sport’s marquee names.
This is due mainly to the timing of Diaz’s tweet, however.
The 32-year-old veteran’s last two fights may have been up at welterweight but Diaz is a natural lightweight and is still ranked in that division, so one would assume that his return will come at 155lbs. At present, however, few of the lightweight division’s top 10 fighters are available. Interim champion Tony Ferguson is scheduled to face top contender Khabib Nurmagomedov on April 7th, the number 10 ranked Al Iaquinta is booked against Paul Felder on the same card, while Justin Gaethje and Dustin Poirier, ranked 5th and 6th respectively, are set to do battle the following week.
That leaves just Eddie Alvarez(3), Edson Barboza(4), Kevin Lee(7), and Michael Chiesa(9) free.
Strangely, Barboza and Chiesa didn’t issue challenges, but Eddie Alvarez and Lee did.
“May-June is perfect [Nate Diaz], see you then big guy,” wrote Alvarez on Twitter.
— Eddie Alvarez (@Ealvarezfight) January 24, 2018
“Put yo money up then [Nate Diaz],” wrote Lee. “Or shut the fuck up and go back to riding bikes around the park.”
— Kevin MTP Lee (@MoTownPhenom) January 24, 2018
Of the four available fighters in the top 10, Alvarez probably has the best shot at securing this fight. He has the highest profile, is a former champion, is the only one coming off of a win, and we know that the UFC already tried to piece together a fight between he and Diaz last year.
Lee, who is coming off of a submission defeat to the aforementioned Tony Ferguson in an interim title fight last October, would make for an interesting opponent for Diaz. He is a quality fighter and his brash personality would likely clash with that of Diaz and make for an interesting build-up.
Barboza is still licking his wounds after being bludgeoned to a unanimous decision defeat by Nurmagomedov in December, but we’d expect him to pipe up at some point as well. Chiesa, who hasn’t fought since a defeat to Lee last June is a long shot, but he is also likely to roll the dice.
Of course, there remains the possibility that Diaz will end up in a trilogy-decider with old foe McGregor, regardless of how vexing that might be for some.