Who Should Nick Diaz Fight?
By Alex Conway
Apparently Nick Diaz is ready to make a comeback in 2021.
So who should he fight?
Let’s establish some ground rules before we dive into potential opponents.
For starters, Nick Diaz is only coming back under the assumption that the UFC will meet his financial demands. If they don’t, he’s not fighting. I don’t care what anyone says, this is a money grab.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way let’s make something else clear…he isn’t fighting Leon Edwards. I don’t know why everyone assumes that all the top welterweights ranked ahead of Edwards or with a bigger name value then the Brit are interested in letting the super talented fighter from Birmingham make his name off them.
Seems like an obvious choice, assuming his brother Nate Diaz doesn’t get first dibs at the trilogy.
It’s obvious because it’s obviously the fight that will generate the most PPV buys, as would any McGregor fight and I suspect the elder Diaz only returns if he gets a cut of any PPV he’s a part of.
While an obvious opponent, navigating the fight into fruition is a different story.
For starters, McGregor still has title aspirations, whether it’s a rematch with Khabib Nurmagomedov, an attempt at a third title in the welterweight division or even Jorge Masvidal’s BMF belt, McGregor has his sights set on gold.
Nick Diaz doesn’t offer any of that, so it’s hard to say if McGregor would sign-up for the fight.
Also there is Nate. The ever present trilogy between Nate Diaz and McGregor would probably come before a Nick Diaz fight for the Irishman.
If McGregor completes the trilogy with Nate, it probably only happens after his title aspirations have been exhausted and with one Diaz in the books would he see another rivalry with Nick as something new and exciting, or more of the same and not interesting.
Despite it being a surefire blockbuster I doubt it happens anytime soon.
Another guaranteed blockbuster but another fight with some logistical hurdles to clear.
Masvidal, just like McGregor, has title aspirations and history with Nate Diaz that would likely complicate a fight with Nick Diaz.
It’s rumored that Masvidal’s next fight will be a rematch with Nate Diaz for the BMF title in January. If that happens and he defeats Nate again, then you’ve got a ready-made storyline with Nick looking to avenge his younger brother.
But would Masvidal want to embark on another Diaz rivalry when he could set his sights on a championship rematch with Usman, or a fight with former friend/teammate turned bitter rival Colby Covington?
While this fight makes sense from Nick’s stand point, it takes two to tango. If this fight happens in 2021, it probably wouldn’t be until late in the year once Masvidal has settled other business.
You’re probably thinking…what?
Hear me out, but be prepared, if you’re a purest you won’t like what I have to say.
Why do you think Nick Diaz is coming out of retirement?
I suspect it’s because he’s looked around and seen what the UFC has prioritized the last few years and especially during the pandemic. They need big fights and aren’t afraid to occasionally bastardize a title fight for a few extra dollars.
Let’s assume Adesanya gets by Paulo Costa later this month on the same night that Robert Whittaker takes on Jared Cannonier.
Are you really telling me that the UFC wouldn’t pass up an Adesanya fight with Whittaker/Cannonier in favor of Nick Daiz?
You know they would and it’s perfect for them in a lot of ways (except sport integrity).
Diaz will likely lose to Adesanya, meaning they won’t burn their rising star. The New Zealander is the larger and more skilled fighter, not to mention younger and has fought far more consistently in recent years (understatement of the year…Diaz hasn’t fought since 2015).
But it’s a fight that would largely take place on the feet, which will make Diaz happy (he’s notorious for not wanting to fight grapplers) and Diaz would represent the largest name (other than Silva) that Adesanya has faced in the UFC.
Combine the booking with it being the long-awaited return of one of the biggest names in the sport and you’ve got a potential breakout moment awaiting a man in Adesanya that the UFC has pegged as it’s next big thing.
Don’t rule this fight out.
Colby Covington, Donald Cerrone, Tony Ferguson, Dustin Poirier or Justin Gaethje
Yeah, that’s a lot of names.
Let’s revisit the criteria and make an amendment. Diaz is only interested in certain types of fighters and that will rule out most wrestling based opponents.
I’ll make an exception for Colby Covington since he has the ability to get under people’s skin and potentially drive up a PPV buyrate. He also has the type of face you want to punch that Diaz might want to hit for any amount of money.
Diaz is a better businessman than people give him credit for, but at his heart he’ll fight most men that disrespect him. If Covington provides some gasoline, Diaz might light a match.
The other names fit the mold of mostly stand-up based fighters with a big enough name that will engage Diaz on terms that he deems respectable (no hugging).
Cerrone is not the fighter he once was but people still know the name and with Diaz being 37, it’s hard to say this isn’t a fight that makes sense from where both men’s skills might be at.
Ferguson, Poirier and Gathje largely depend on how their next fights play out. If Gaethje wins the title over Khabib, he’s out. Nick Diaz isn’t getting a title shot at lightweight and Gaethje likely isn’t moving up as a champion to fight a non-champion.
Ferguson and Poirier have been rumored next for each other and if that happens, the winner likely is next in line for the belt. The loser will still have a ton of name value, especially in a fan friendly fight with Diaz.
A Diaz vs. Ferguson/Poirier fight would be an excellent co-main event for a PPV with a massive headlining title fight. Keep in mind that the UFC is likely examining what they wants to do for their first show where fans can return in 2021. They’ll want to stack that card as much as possible. While I suspect Diaz would headline most PPV’s he’s a part of, a megacard like that could see him make his way back as a non-main eventer.