Following his ‘retirement’ from fighting after losing a decision to welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre at UFC 158 , Nick Diaz has been enjoying his time away from the cage and away from the demands of being a full-time fighter.
However, Diaz has plenty of fight left in him and he is keen to make some money. While he has been enjoying some downtime he has been doing some thinking. He has concluded that what he would like his immediate future to hold is some big money, big reward fights.
The fight with St. Pierre was really the first time that Diaz got to take a bite of the big-money cake that the UFC’s top-tier fighters feast on. And if he had won, the coming paydays would have been enormous. He didn’t get the win, but he’s been thinking about it ever since.
Right now he is Las Vegas, Nevada with his girlfriend. Her father drives dirt-track racecars and is competing this weekend, in a car complete with Nick Diaz decals and the logo of his own WAR MMA promotion.
Its morning in Las Vegas and Diaz is in a pretty decent mood. He recently moved out of the ‘fighter house’ he had been living in for the last few years and into a new apartment. He says it’s only small - “a little two bedroom, one bathroom thing” - but the change in living environment has been good.
“I’m not fighting right now so I didn’t really need to be living in the fighter house with the other guys, I got out of there. It doesn’t really hold up [as a living environment] if you’re not actually training for a fight, its a bit of a mess,” he says.
Diaz will be paying close attention to next week’s fight between St Pierre and Hendricks at UFC 167. If he was a betting man, he wouldn’t be putting his money on Hendricks.
“I think Georges St. Pierre will win that fight. I watched Hendricks and Condit and I wasn’t that impressed with Hendricks. I think Georges should win with strikes rather than a wrestling match,” he says.
But it isn’t so much the fight that interests him as its potential aftermath. If St Pierre comes out with the win, where does that leave the welterweight contender picture? There’s nobody aside from Rory Macdonald who looks like a viable contender right now, and he has sworn he won’t fight his team mate.
“They are talking about there’s nobody to fight him after this. I’ll make a joke out of that real quick - I think there’s nobody on my level really. I don’t want to name names but that’s how I feel. So I feel like if the fans want to see me fight…” says Diaz, trailing off without mentioning a title fight directly.
Of late there have been numerous rumors that Diaz is interested in a fight with Michael Bisping at middleweight. He flatly refutes that; he doesn’t see it as a big fight - and by ‘big fight’ he means ‘big earner’.
“I don’t see that being a really big fight like this one fight I’m thinking I could have at welterweight,” he says, again hovering around the topic of a rematch with St. Pierre without actually calling the champion out.
“And [Bisping’s] been getting knocked out a bunch lately so I’m like, lets wait until I start getting knocked out too. I can’t afford to be getting knocked out [at middleweight] right now. Lets wait until my late 30s or something! [laughs].”
So Diaz is ready to come out of retirement for the right fight. Whether he can get that fight right off is debatable. Diaz doesn’t answer my question about how he would respond if the UFC said “Win one fight, we will give you a shot”.
Instead he lays out his own requirements for a return and they can be summarized thus: Nick Diaz wants to get paid.
“Well we could negotiate. I am a pretty big draw. So we would have to negotiate a pretty decent amount of pay and a pretty decent amount from the pay-per-view. I’m talking like three to five dollars [per PPV unit sold] the same as these other important fighters are getting, because I am out there putting on a show,” he says.
“Some of those guys are making way more money than what my contract is worth. I’m not making a fraction of it. And I don’t want you to think I am just regurgitating some [rumors] here. I understand what I understand, I hear what I hear.
“I’ve had some time off from fighting and some free time to finally start looking at things like this and thinking about it. Its a bit easier for me to learn what’s what now.”
The UFC will also be pleased to learn that Diaz’s attitude to the PR circus has done a complete 180. Of all the fighters in MMA, Diaz was by far the most notorious for hating the media grind.
It culminated in his failing to attend a UFC 137 PR engagement and being removed from his first title shot against St Pierre. These days, Diaz is all-business and he is ready to play the game.
“Well I am talking about big fights, so I could be really enthusiastic about all that [PR stuff] nowadays. Before I didn’t want to talk or do anything extra, because I wasn’t getting paid for it,” he says.
“I didn’t want to do all these conferences and all this running around on PR and not getting paid for it and its interfering with my training, you know? But if you look at the last two fights I think I started to show more enthusiasm for it. The last one I think I explained myself pretty good.”
Anybody who has followed Diaz for any length of time will have noticed that words like “money” and “compensation” have formed an ever-increasing part of his conversation.
The truth is Diaz has always thought about money. But its only lately, as he sees his career’s finish line hover into view, that he has started to really worry about it and think about maximizing his earnings in the time he has left.
“I can’t make any other money other than fighting. Never have,” he says. “I had a job once, I was like 15 or 16. Running wires through a building for a construction company, they paid me in cash ‘under the table’.
“I bought myself a four-wheeler. Then I sold it back to the guy I bought it from and I started fighting professionally at 18. Ever since then that’s the only way I have made money.”
What about the WAR MMA venture he launched in his native Stockton, California? That first show seemed to go well, though in truth Diaz is something of a figurehead and partner rather than being involved in the promoter and operations sides.
“I’m trying to work something out with the team of guys who do it. But to be honest I haven’t been really too motivated lately in terms of things to make money. I’ve been training a lot, training with my brother [Nate] for his fight coming up, and moving house,” he says.
“And before that, just a few months of indecisiveness really. I’ve been traveling around a little bit. The free time has been good, its different. Now if there’s a big fight available… people know where I am.”