LAS VEGAS – Throughout his career, there has always been much ado any time Nick Diaz stepped on a stage for a press event. Will he show up? Will he bail? Will he present more thoughts than just a couple of “yes” or “no” answers?
Diaz’s interviews have never been standard. In fact, they have been the furthest thing from it – and could be one of the reasons fight fans still adore him after all these years. Even after six years away from the cage, that adoration was still there for Diaz (26-9 MMA, 7-6 UFC) as he walked on stage Thursday at the UFC 266 pre-fight news conference opposite opponent Robbie Lawler.
“I feel good,” Diaz said, in his opening remarks when asked by MMA Junkie lead reporter John Morgan about being back and the reception he received.
Mid-answer, Diaz, who has had a rocky relationship with mixed martial arts as a whole and the attention it brings him, smiled – a somewhat rare occurrence for him, at least in the spotlight. “I feel real good. It’s good to see everybody,” Diaz said, as he gave a wave.
Throughout the rest of the news conference, Diaz remained relatively short and sweet with his answers, though was asked more questions than anyone else up on the stage including the two UFC titleholders.
When it comes to Diaz, oftentimes his interviews show a mix of emotions, thoughts, and feelings toward the fight game. That was the case Wednesday during an interview with ESPN where he questioned his scheduled participation in Saturday’s event.
So, does Diaz like fighting, or is it just something he feels obligated to do? What does the future hold?
Diaz provided some clarity.
“I definitely want to do this more often, especially if I get my ass whooped,” Diaz said. “If I get my ass whooped, I want to come back right away. If I get my ass whooped, I’ll come right back.’”
Taking him at his word, Diaz appreciates the love and support from the fans – and there’s a lot of it. He likes martial arts, a hobby-turned-profession he’s partaken in for decades. So what it is about Diaz that causes complicated feelings?
“It’s just that I had three-to-five fights a year for 17 years or so,” Diaz said. “All I ever thought about was weight (and) ‘What am I going to eat?’ After a while, you realize there’s more to life. … Then, everybody digs their heels in you when you’re down. It’s kind of rough. It’s nice to see a lot of support, like, two weeks leading up to a fight. But ‘What about the last five years?’ is kind of how I feel.”
Regardless of his expression of how he feels at certain moments during fight week, Diaz is confident the fire will be lit under him when it comes time to throw down with a former UFC welterweight champion at UFC 266 – even with the unexpected level of attention that he’s generated this week.
“There were a few things, the way this fight got set up (or) lined up,” Diaz said. “Either way, it doesn’t make a difference. When I get someone in front of me, I seem to be right back. I’ve always trained with the best. I’ve always held my own with the best. I didn’t expect at this age to catch so much heat, so much expectation from everybody. It’s kind of hard. Before, I was just kind of used to saying hi and being happy with everybody. Now, all of a sudden, I’m going, ‘Wait, wait, wait.’ That’s all. I wasn’t ready for all of the extra attention and attention and attention.”
UFC 266 takes place Saturday at T-Mobile Arena. The main card streams on pay-per-view after prelims on ESPN News/ESPN+.
Photos: Nick Diaz through the years
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