Ahead of his first bout in more than six years, Nick Diaz has prompted questions as to his motivation to fight – with several fans expressing concern after the UFC released footage of a sluggish Diaz shadow-boxing.
Diaz, 38, takes on Robbie Lawler this weekend in a rematch which takes place some 17 years after they first met in the early days of the UFC.
The Stockton native, a former UFC welterweight title challenger, has become one of the sport’s most beloved characters throughout his extensive career in the cage but as he prepares to take on the challenge of the hard-hitting Lawler in a featured bout on this weekend’s UFC 266 card, questions are being asked as to whether the elder Diaz still has the necessary tools to compete with the world’s finest fighters.
By the time he walks to the cage in Las Vegas this weekend, it will be just a month shy of a decade since he last registered a win when a prime Diaz stormed past former champion B.J. Penn all the way back at UFC 137.
Losses to Carlos Condit and Georges St-Pierre followed, before a no-contest with Anderson Silva in January 2015 which remains the last time that Diaz has thrown a punch in anger in the Octagon.
His return this Saturday night is a notable combat curiosity – but recent alarming comments from Diaz, coupled with footage of some less-than-impressive shadow boxing, has left some fans concerned that Diaz’s comeback could be a train wreck.
“I never enjoyed fighting. It’s just something that I do,” Diaz told ESPN. “It’s just what I do. I try to get away from it, but really, it’s kind of inevitable. It is. All the people around me, and all the money and the sponsors, they won’t let me get away from fighting. There’s things I could do, but that’s not gonna work out. I might as well just go and take my punches.
“But if I don’t do this, I don’t know how I’m gonna feel about myself. If two years down the road, if I’m sitting here going, ‘Why didn’t I just go do these fights?’
“Do I feel confident? I never do. I never have. I’ve always felt like I’m gonna get trashed out there. Every fight I’ve ever done. ‘How do you feel against Robbie Lawler?’ I feel like I’m gonna get the sh*t beat out of me. And even when I win, I get beat up worse.”
Oh boy pic.twitter.com/UROhgqjkX3
— Nice Guy Λ (@ImAntoMMA) September 23, 2021
Diaz’s UFC return has been teased for a year and comes after his management told the media that their fighter was planning a comeback in 2021 – and that he had already completed a training camp and a ‘test’ weight cut in preparation.
Somewhere along the way, though, it seems as if Diaz has begun to question the specifics of it as the clock ticks ever closer to his date with destiny.
“This doesn’t make sense for me to go in there and fight Robbie Lawler again,” he said. “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.”
But perhaps Diaz’s love/hate relationship with the sport through which he made his name was best encapsulated by his description of how training for his comeback had impacted his life.
“I love to help people and I love to be a part of the sport, but I don’t love what it’s done to me. Especially in the last seven months, the last two years,” he said.
Furthermore, sections of MMA’s glass-half-full support have warned that Diaz, and particularly the evidence of his shadow boxing, could lead to as depressing a scenario as we witnessed last weekend in Florida when an ageing Evander Holyfield was rolled out into the ring for a one-round slaughter against MMA fighter Vitor Belfort.
flashbacks of evander holyfield last week
— diablo (@NickDiabloDiaz) September 23, 2021
Oh no. This is giving me flashbacks of Chuck Liddell's video hittin' the gloves before Liddell v Tito 4.
— EvolKame (@EvolKame) September 23, 2021
Who would have thought it, he looks exactly like a 38yearold coming back after 6 years off
— history_fan_boy_of_egg (@lovrosedej) September 23, 2021
“Flashbacks of Evander Holyfield last week,” wrote one fan online in reaction to the footage.
“Oh no. This is giving me flashbacks of Chuck Liddell’s video hittin’ the gloves before Liddell v Tito 4,” said another, referencing the fight where UFC legend Chuck Liddell was pounded out in his own comeback fight.
“Who would have thought it, he looks exactly like a 38 year old coming back after 6 years off,” said another.
MMA pundit Darren Russell quelled some of the fears over the footage, however, arguing: “I think we’re reading too much into this to be honest. It’s literally just a promo shoot, you’re not going to go ALL OUT!”
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