Former Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz is returning to the Octagon after spending more than five years away from MMA competition. And with a win at UFC 266, two specific superfights will become much more of a possibility for the fighter from Stockton, California.
Diaz is scheduled to fight former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler in a featured five-round bout on the PPV main card.
UFC 266 takes place September 25 at 10 p.m. Eastern time at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. It will air as a pay-per-view on ESPN+.
The contest is the second-ever non-title, non-main event five-round fight. The first one featured Nick’s younger brother Nate, who fought five rounds at UFC 263 against Leon Edwards in June 2021.
The Lawler bout marks Diaz’s first match since his middleweight fight with former UFC 185-pound king Anderson Silva in January 2015 at UFC 183. “Ruthless” versus Diaz is set to be contested at 170 pounds.
This clash is a rematch from a fight that took place more than 17 years ago at UFC 47 in April 2004, long before Diaz and Lawler became Strikeforce and UFC champions, respectively. Diaz won their first encounter by second-round KO.
Watch their first fight and KO finish below:
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Diaz Needs to a Victory to Chase Even Bigger Fights, Possibly Against Jorge Masvidal & Conor McGregor
Although Diaz hasn’t fought since 2015, it’s been nearly a decade since he’s earned a victory in MMA. His last win came by unanimous decision when he out-pointed former two-division UFC champ BJ Penn in 2011 at UFC 137.
When the Octagon door locks on September 25, it’s crucial for Diaz to defeat the ex-UFC 170-pound champion if he is to gain more relevancy in the loaded welterweight division. And further to that, he needs a victory to potentially secure a superfight with two massive MMA names, Jorge Masvidal and Conor McGregor.
Diaz has a history with “Gamebred” and “Notorious” as they have both defeated his younger brother Nate. And they have shown interest in taking on Nick as well.
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Masvidal vs. Diaz Could Happen for the ‘BMF’ Title
In November 2019, Masvidal earned the “Baddest Motherf*****” belt when he defeated Nate at UFC 244. It was a highly anticipated PPV event, taking place at Madison Square Garden in New York City. After Gamebred defeated Nick’s younger brother by doctor’s stoppage, global superstar Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson wrapped the “BMF” title around Masvidal’s waist.
Gamebred has fought twice since then but his BMF belt hasn’t been up for grabs.
Masvidal has suffered two consecutive defeats since UFC 244, failing to capture 170-pound gold both times. He lost to champion Kamaru Usman at UFC 251 in July 2020 by unanimous decision. He was granted another crack at “The Nigerian Nightmare” but was knocked out in the second round of their April 2021 bout during UFC 261.
Masvidal has stated on several occasions that he hopes to return to the Octagon in either December 2021 or January 2022. And he’ll likely be watching UFC 266 to see how Nick performs.
In an interview with ESPN earlier this month, Masvidal was asked about a possible contest with the returning ex-Strikeforce champion. Gamebred asserted his eagerness to fight Diaz should he “look good” against Lawler, saying it would be a “classic fight”
“If Nick looks good and does his job, why not me and Nick?” Masvidal said. “I’d love to fight Nick. It’s a classic fight. It’s a fight that I always wanted to do since I was at Strikeforce at 155 [pounds] and he was at 170. I was like, ‘Man, that’s a dude I would like to fight.’ Nothing personal, just because of his style. The way that he leaves it all out there. If I get a fight with Nick, it’ll be a blessing.”
On Diaz’s end, he has taken issue with Masvidal in the past, unhappy with Gamebred saying he was planning on “baptizing” his younger brother at UFC 244. That, coupled with Masvidal getting his hand raised over Nate, creates an exciting storyline for the fight.
There hasn’t been much talk from the UFC or Masvidal about putting the BMF title on the line, but a blockbuster fight between two of the sport’s biggest stars seems like a good reason to dust it off.
McGregor & Diaz Is a Blockbuster Storyline & Could Be a Compelling Style Match-Up
A year ago, BT Sport shared a photo on Twitter of Nick and Nate Diaz, days after Ariel Helwani reported that Nick was planning his Octagon return for 2021. McGregor commented on the photo, tweeting: “Line them up.”
Since that tweet, Notorious has fought twice inside the cage, losing both times to Dustin Poirier at lightweight. In January 2021 at UFC 257, McGregor was finished via second-round TKO and during UFC 264 in July 2021, Notorious snapped his leg during the opening frame of their trilogy bout, losing via doctor’s stoppage.
The Irishman is currently rehabbing his leg injury, which will likely see him out of action until at least late spring or summer of next year. But Notorious has made it clear that once he’s back in fighting form, he’ll compete again.
And an exciting battle could feature the older brother of one of his biggest rivals.
McGregor fought Nate Diaz twice in 2016, losing the first fight by second-round submission at UFC 196 and winning the second via majority decision at UFC 202. The banter between the two was ever-present during the lead-up to both fights, and it has continued throughout the years since.
Although Nick Diaz hasn’t been pulled into the trash-talking very often, he took part in the infamous UFC 202 pre-fight press conference water bottle battle, which saw McGregor and the Diaz brothers throwing water bottles at each other.
Watch the moment below:
McGregor versus Nick would offer an exciting storyline. Can Nick avenge his younger brother’s loss to McGregor or will Notorious once again best a Diaz?
The style match-up is also intriguing, as long as Nick shows up in vintage form against Lawler at UFC 266. Diaz is known for his high-volume boxing and top-level jiu-jitsu, whereas McGregor is a multi-faceted striking technician with a powerful left hand.
But two things need to happen before any of this talk can possibly come to fruition: Notorious must heal up and Diaz needs to topple Lawler on September 25.