The Return of Nick Diaz was a roller coaster of emotions, to say the least. From the beginning of fight week when he first touched down in Vegas, to the moment he and Lawler embraced after the fight ended. The very presence of Diaz shook up the MMA world unlike we’ve seen in years, and left fans holding him in the high highest regard in the aftermath.
The end result was a positive one for Diaz, all things considered. There was some cause for concern going into the fight. The body language of Diaz during the walkout did little to instill confidence he was coming with his A-game. He seemed borderline disoriented as he made his walk in, taking a few anxiety-riddled breaths as he approached the octagon. It wasn’t the usual mean-mugging march to the proving ground with a scowl. He didn’t exude confidence, just uncertainty.
Both getting into their rhythm 😳
— UFC (@ufc) September 26, 2021
It was especially concerning in contrast to Robbie Lawler’s walk out which was the polar opposite of Diaz’s. The entrance of Robbie Lawler may have been the most focused and motivated Lawler we’ve seen in years, not to mention that physically he looked as strong as he ever has. The way Lawler was hopping around the Octagon and switching his feet was the most ready-to-go Lawler has looked in recent memory, ‘Ruthless’ came into this fight more on point than ever.
There was criticism of Diaz’s mindset as he entered the bout based on the interviews he did during fight week. When in actuality, there wasn’t a single thing he said all week that he hasn’t been saying his entire career. But in retrospect, it wasn’t so much about what he was saying, as much as it was about how he was saying it. The words were the same, but the emotions were different.
Legends letting it FLY in the first! ✈️
— UFC (@ufc) September 26, 2021
It was evident from the onset that he didn’t come into this fight with his patent weaponized conditioning. There were a lot of unknowns about his training, based on what we saw it’s not illogical to assume he did not train as he normally has in the past fights, based on his physique and the way he moved in the octagon. His boxing looked as accurate as ever , and he maintained a great output. But was oftentimes flat-footed and immobile with his back against the cage. The output was high, but the desire was low.
It also didn’t help matters for Diaz that the Robbie Lawler we saw on Saturday night may very well have been capable of knocking off top contenders. Post-fight he credited Diaz with giving him the motivation to work harder than ever and to bring out the best in him, Lawler’s performance proved this was the case.
Post-fight, Diaz’s long-term friend and training partner Jake Shields commended Diaz on the performance despite the loss, citing that the Stockon native was forced to take the fight too soon. Should this be the case, it makes you wonder what Diaz would have been capable of had it prepared like he’s been able to in the past.
Wanted to do a fight later but was pressured to take it before he was ready. People care about money not his health
— Jake Shields (@jakeshieldsajj) September 26, 2021
Although Diaz had fantastic moments in the fight, it did partly feel as if he shouldn’t have been in there to begin with. Especially given the way it ended, in this circumstance, 99% of the time a fighter decides to not continue in the fashion he did would never go over well with the fanbase. But in this case, Diaz was the exception.
All in all, the return of still Diaz brought a level of excitement and entertainment to fans that no other athlete in this sport can do. Even on a loss, the buzz created and the enjoyment from his return is unmatched by any other fighter on the roster.
Whether or not we see him in the Octagon again remains to be seen. But for long time hardcore fans of the sport, it’s satisfying to see that even on a loss, at a time when phony trash talk and shameless self-promotion is at an all-time high. The most polarizing figure in the sport supersedes all the rest in terms of popularity and respect amongst the fanbase by being his true self. Stockton, mother fucker.