Nick Diaz returns to UFC 266, still angry and in conflict
LAS VEGAS (AP) – Nick Diaz is a 38-year-old mixed martial artist who hasn’t competed for almost seven years and hasn’t won a fight for a decade. He’s also the biggest star on the card and the most compelling reason to watch UFC 266.
This is not an indictment of Alexander Volkanovsky or Valentina Shevchenko, the two accomplished champions making title defenses on the same show. Nor is it a criticism of the UFC’s star deficiency state, which hasn’t crowned any champion lately with the transcendent appeal of retired Ronda Rousey or struggling Conor McGregor.
It’s just the reality of Diaz – the charismatic MMA icon who has decided to return to the cage for the first time since January 2015 even though he doesn’t want to fight anymore.
At least that’s what he claimed in a bizarre interview he gave to ESPN – the UFC’s broadcast partner – immediately after arriving in Las Vegas this week to take on Robbie Lawler.
âI don’t know why I’m doing this,â he said.
A day later at the UFC 266 press conference, Diaz (26-9) clearly enjoyed the adoring cheers he received from the fans in attendance, even greeting everyone with a rare smile.
âI really want to do it more often, especially if I’m getting my butt screaming,â Diaz said. “If I get my butt screwed, I want to come back right away.” “
The glaring contradictions and distant indifference to them are part of the appeal of the famous Diaz brothers, who spend most of their lives teaching jiu-jitsu, participating in triathlons, following a vegan diet and enthusiastically consuming marijuana in their hometown of Stockton, California. .
Nate Diaz, two years younger than Nick, became a full-fledged superstar during his big brother’s competitive break, including breaking up two epic fights with McGregor in 2016.
But Nick Diaz, the former Strikeforce welterweight champion and a veteran of several unforgettable fights during MMA’s competitive teenage years, weighs even more heavily after his long absence from the sport.
He rose to popularity not only because of his irresistible fighting style, which included enthusiastic violence, tireless conditioning, and clever ground play.
To his fans, Diaz is an attitude personified: a glare, a middle finger, a constant aggravation with all authority that plays superbly among fans of this very individual and violent sport. Diaz’s refusal to fight for the past six years was frustrating for those who wanted to see him in action, but also perfectly in keeping with his anti-authoritarian personality.
Diaz hasn’t changed much, judging from his interview with ESPN. He said he never felt confident before his fights and always felt like he was about to get beaten up – but he does it anyway, for reasons he doesn’t. could not express.
Diaz also said he should fight welterweight champion Kamaru Usman instead of getting a rematch with Lawler (28-15), even though Diaz did nothing to win a title in the normal way. He regrets being back in the game for this game, but he can’t wait to get into the cage.
âI have a lot of resentment towards the sport for taking so much of myself and not giving anything back,â Diaz told ESPN.
The character of Diaz first caught his eye during Nick Diaz’s first fight with Lawler in 2004. The two young prospects stole the show at UFC 47, which was headlined by Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz.
Diaz, 20, threw Lawler out of his game in the opening minutes with an open-handed strike known as the Stockton Slap after Nate later imitated him. Nick Diaz finally stopped Lawler with a magnificent right hook that sent Lawler face-first to the canvas.
UFC 266 rematch is unattractive on strictly competitive grounds: Diaz’s last win was against BJ Penn in October 2011, while Lawler, 39, has lost four consecutive fights in the past four years .
But MMA fans are mesmerized by the famous names that drew them to the young sport, and Diaz’s return is garnering worldwide attention.
On Wednesday, Diaz even persuaded Lawler and the UFC to run the fight into five rounds – two rounds longer than a normal untitled fight – at the 185-pound averageweight limit instead of the welterweight limit. contracted 170 pounds. Lawler stoically accepted Diaz’s desire not to lose weight, likely securing additional financial compensation in what could be the last big paycheck of his career.
And at the glowing press conference Thursday, with proof of his popularity ringing in his ears, Diaz was excited about his return to MMA. He even said he “would like to come back right away” for another fight if he loses to Lawler.
âWhen I have someone in front of me, I seem to be back,â Diaz said. âI have always trained with the best. I have always stood firm with the best. I didn’t expect at this age to catch so much heat, so many expectations from everyone. It’s a bit hard. … I wasn’t ready for all the extra attention, attention, and attention.
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