The Nick Diaz show was always can’t-miss entertainment whether he was fighting on television, participating in media roundtables or taking questions at a press conference.
When it was announced last week that Diaz had re-signed with the UFC and then less than 24-hours ago inked a contract to face Anderson Silva at UFC 183 in January as part of the promotion’s yearly Super Bowl weekend card, the MMA world came unhinged.
Diaz is one of the most polarizing figures in the entire sport, but following his 2013 loss to Georges St-Pierre it seemed as if he was walking away from fighting for good. The Stockton, Calif., native said he was retired unless something good came along to convince him to step back into the cage again.
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As it turns out, retired may have been a poor choice of words according to Diaz, but at the time he was content with his life away from fighting unless the right offer came across his desk with a payday he believes was fair money for the work he was about to put in.
"I didn’t ever really mean to make that statement that I’m retired," Diaz said on a UFC media call Wednesday. "What I mean by that whole thing is you never really retire from martial arts, that just doesn’t happen. Some people don’t make it in martial arts in the same way I do, in the same perspective I do, or got into it the same way. What I meant to say is I’m retired from climbing the ropes, I’m definitely not going to take easy fights, I’m not doing anybody any favors and I’m definitely not doing myself any favors taking a fight I’m not happy with. That’s where I stood with my whole retirement game plan."
I don’t recommend anybody to be a fighter. Fighting is not something I enjoy doing. It’s something I feel I have to do, and that’s just the way it is.”
— Nick Diaz
When the call came from the UFC with a new deal on the table as well as a fight against the greatest pound-for-pound champion the sport has ever known, Diaz reacted in kind and signed up for a multi-fight contract and a bout agreement to face Anderson Silva.
None of it really put a smile on Diaz’s face, however, despite the fact that it appeared he got everything he wanted when he opted to stop competing over a year ago. It seems Diaz looks at fighting as a necessary evil — something he has to do but not something he wants to do.
"I don’t recommend anybody to be a fighter," Diaz said. "Fighting is not something I enjoy doing. It’s something I feel I have to do, and that’s just the way it is."
Diaz broke it down even further when pushed by a reporter to explain why so many other fighters express joy when it comes to their job inside the Octagon. It’s not uncommon at all to hear words like "happy" or "excited" used when a fighter is about to get locked in the cage to face another man in one-on-one combat.
The former Strikeforce champion believes deep down it’s all posturing because it’s what fighters are expected to say when interviewers ask them a question. In reality, no one enjoys fighting according to Diaz — especially not him.
"I don’t enjoy fighting," he said. "I don’t use that word in this sport. I use that word like maybe I’m starving and food is showing up and I’m excited now. Or I’m excited to have a couple of days off. I don’t know if people are confused with that term when it comes to fighting, that’s how I feel about that."
"Would you enjoy fighting Anderson Silva? I don’t believe them one bit, that’s just how I feel about it."
Over the last 16 months that he hasn’t been actively fighting, Diaz has found some happiness in his life that had nothing to do with strapping on gloves and walking to the Octagon. He briefly became a promoter for a small local event in California and mostly just worked on becoming a better martial artist.
He didn’t miss fighting and he certainly didn’t miss the punishment that goes along with being a professional mixed martial artist.
"It’s been a really productive time off," Diaz said. "It’s been positive, and I wasn’t stressing out about having a fight or taking a fight. The right fight wasn’t there for me at the time, so that was fine for me. I don’t need much. I can survive without fighting. The thing is I want to do the best I can like everybody else."
And if any other fighters decide to contradict what he’s saying, Diaz thinks chances are they just aren’t telling the truth about the matter. There’s nothing inside of Diaz that makes him revel in the pain and suffering of an opponent. He doesn’t like seeing anybody get hurt and he certainly doesn’t like to be the one doling out the punishment.
Fighting is a job and that just happens to be what Diaz does best.
"I think people lie to you and tell you that they enjoy doing things that they don’t like to do," Diaz said. "A lot of it’s a front. They keep their mouths shut and put on a smile or they say bulls*** like they like to hurt people. I don’t want to hurt anybody. I’m a non-violent person, I don’t especially enjoy violence. I hate watching people get hurt over and over again, it’s not something I enjoy to do.