UFC 266: The Return of Nick Diaz
By Josh Werle, Contributor
On Jan. 31, 2015, combat sports fans around the globe didn’t realize that they would be witnessing Nick Diaz’ last fight of the 2010s. On Sept. 25, 2021, Diaz will be returning to the UFC octagon after a six-year layoff and will compete in a five-round fight against “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler at UFC 266.
A lot has happened both in the sport of mixed martial arts and in the life of Diaz since his last fight, leaving many to question what kind of athlete will show up at UFC 266. Let’s take a look at what has happened since Diaz’ last fight in 2015.
In the aftermath of Diaz’ last fight at UFC 183, it came out that he had tested positive for marijuana use, a substance that has become synonymous with Diaz and his brother’s name. He was initially suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) for five years, while also incurring a $165,000 fine. The punishments were eventually reduced to 18 months and $100,000 respectively, but the damage had already been done.
In July 2021, the NSAC declared that marijuana is not performance enhancing, and that it is now legal for mixed martial arts athletes to use. It may just be a coincidence, but Diaz’ comeback fight is scheduled to take place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The rise of Nate Diaz
Even if you aren’t the biggest fan of the UFC, most sports aficionados would recognize the last name Diaz. Nick’s younger brother, Nate, has reached superstar status in the combat sports world, headlining or co-headlining four out of his last five appearances inside the UFC octagon. Nick was the most well known of the Diaz brothers in early 2015, having been the headliner for nine straight mixed martial arts events he competed in.
It wasn’t until late 2015 when Nate made his now famous callout of superstar Conor McGregor. Inevitably, Nate and McGregor squared off at UFC 196, where Nate handed McGregor his first defeat inside the UFC octagon. This victory catapulted the already popular Diaz name into the heights of combat sports fame. Nate may be the most well known of the Diaz brothers currently, but he wouldn’t have reached that status without the foundation that his older brother had already built.
The Diaz brothers have become popular due to their attitudes both inside and outside of the octagon. For example, Nick literally laid down during a fight against one of the all-time middleweight greats, Anderson Silva, and Nate threw water bottles across the room at Conor McGregor during one of their press conferences. To put it simply, the Diaz brothers just don’t seem to care. Fans love the presence that these brothers have and they gravitate towards their carefree outlook on the sport of mixed martial arts and in life.
A rematch 17 years in the making
At UFC 266, Nick Diaz will make his return to the octagon and will attempt to once again capture the hearts and minds of sports fans around the world. Nick will be fighting Robbie Lawler for the second time in his career, as the two previously squared off at UFC 47 — an event which took place a remarkable 17 years ago. Father time is unbeatable, and with both fighters approaching 40 years of age, it would be fruitless to make any technical comparisons to their first fight.
Although their physical abilities may be on a downward slope heading into their second fight, the first fight featured something guaranteed to happen again — Nick taunting inside the octagon. At UFC 47, he can be heard yelling taunts like “Where you at?” during the fight, while also slapping Lawler with an open palm. It was antics like these that seemed to throw Lawler off of his game and ultimately led to a Diaz victory by knockout in the second round. Although Lawler is unlikely to be fazed by these moves now, it is still inevitable that Nick will continue to bring his unorthodox style of taunting to the octagon on Sept. 25.