Nick Diaz wants title match: ‘I’m the only draw here’

Lawler and Hendricks, don't be scared, homies.

Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

LAS VEGAS — The man in black walked in slowly, with a look we rarely see. Nick Diaz was smiling, relaxed, even happy. 

Since last March, the last time he fought in the UFC, he has been a shadow haunting the welterweight division. On Saturday, in the Mandalay Bay Events Center, fights were going on, but backstage at UFC 170, it was Diaz who became the main attraction, reporters scurrying to find out what exactly he was doing back in the place he left behind.

Was he here as a fan? Was he here for a business meeting? Was this an end to his semi-retirement? 

In a very Diaz kind of way, he somehow spoke without answering all of the questions. But one thing – the most important thing – he made very clear. When it comes to a UFC return, it’s title fight or bust.

"Yeah," he said when asked if that was the case. "I’ve been fighting for 11 years. I already did all those [contender] fights. I don’t have to take a warmup fight. Why would I take a warmup fight? To help somebody out? To bring them to my level? I’ve already been through all that and you still didn’t see me take an ass whipping."

I don’t care, I’m talking about a title fight matchup. Bottom line, I’m the only draw here. Bottom line. We had like the third biggest [pay-per-view]. That wasn’t just because of Georges St-Pierre.

That hardline negotiating tactic may be a difficult sell to UFC brass. Each of the last two times he entered the octagon, he lost by a unanimous decision. In his absence, the division has moved on. Georges St-Pierre also stepped away from action. Robbie Lawler and Johny Hendricks are queued up to fight for the vacant belt, and other names like Carlos Condit and Matt Brown are in the mix.

On the other hand, he remains one of the sport’s most riveting characters, capable of generating headlines with almost anything he utters. His UFC 158 match with St-Pierre did nearly 1 million pay-per-view buys.

To Diaz, that’s irrefutable evidence that he’s got a legitimate case to take on the winner of the March title fight between Lawler and Hendricks.

"I don’t care, I’m talking about a title fight matchup," he said. "Bottom line, I’m the only draw here. Bottom line. We had like the third biggest [pay-per-view]. That wasn’t just because of Georges St-Pierre. And these guys aren’t doing that. People want to pay to see me fight, they want to see someone get knocked out or someone get tapped out, or they want to see me get my ass whooped like they’ve been waiting to see but they still don’t get to see."

In his time away, Diaz said he has been living an ordinary life. He’s continued to work out, saying he’s "in pretty good shape for not having any fights." He’s searching for a new house. He’s trying to figure out how to handle his finances. Really, he says, he’s learning all the things that he never quite had the time to learn during his 11 years dedicated to fighting. 

As far as missing fighting? No. I don’t miss going in to get my ass beat. So it’s something where I’d like it to be an important deal if I’m going to fight.

"I feel a lot different," he said. "I’ve had a little bit of time to see how the world works."

And as he’s figured things out and put his life in order, he sees that there is still a place in it for fighting. He projects that he’ll be in good shape physically, financially and otherwise by the summertime. 

But that’s only one piece of the puzzle. The other is that nothing less than the title interests him. From afar, he’s enjoyed watching Lawler’s resurgence ("I love the guy, he’s great," he said), and thinks a rematch of their 2004 fight would make sense a decade later if Lawler wins. But only if Lawler wins. 

There seems to be only one exception to his thinking. Diaz said that about one month ago, UFC president Dana White contacted him asking if he was interested in boxing Roy Jones. Diaz responded affirmatively but never heard anything further. That was the last time he’s had any contact with UFC brass. He says he hasn’t turned down any UFC fights, because none have been offered to him.

So after almost a year, we stand in the same place as the starting point: the UFC knows what he wants, and he’s still not bending.

It’s fight night and Nick Diaz is happy watching from the sidelines until the fight make sense.

"I miss feeling like I have something important coming up sometimes. For sure," he said. "As far as missing fighting? No. I don’t miss going in to get my ass beat. So it’s something where I’d like it to be an important deal if I’m going to fight."