Thoughts On A Nick Diaz Comeback
It's been a couple of weeks since former UFC fighter Nick Diaz participated in what ended up being a very strange, potentially concerning interview with ESPN's Ariel Helwani (link). It was a bizarre, rambling interview that saw Diaz struggle to form coherent thoughts or stay on topic, jumping around abruptly without articulating much at all. His demeanor and speech suggested some kind of intoxication, and the interview left the MMA community buzzing with a mix of concern / indifference as to his mental state and questionable interest in seeing him fight again.
My immediate reaction was one of concern; Nick Diaz has always spoken — when he's felt inclined to do so — in a stream of consciousness, but this was different. The contrast between old clips of Nick and this new interview is stark. In the past, Nick provided lengthy answers that would include multiple tangents, but there were coherent ideas being expressed, and a raw honesty that indicated real intelligence behind a thuggish exterior. This was different, it was still a raw, honest moment, but in a different way. As he struggled to get through the conversation, we saw a man still haunted by a lot of demons.
Since moving to Las Vegas, Nick's Instagram has documented what appears to be an ongoing, years-long bender. I can't say for certain that Nick was intoxicated during the interview, bit he definitely appeared that way. I had a very difficult time remembering anything covered in the conversation, to be quite honest. Nick rambled so much, constantly resetting, repeatedly saying "you know what I mean" after a string of incomprehensible sentences.
It was incredibly jarring.
What I gathered was that seeing his brother lose to Jorge Masvidal was upsetting, and he was still processing that. Despite issuing a call-out to Masvidal, Nick doesn't seem to miss fighting, but is still willing to do it for the right price. That's really all that I gleaned from 48 minutes of ... dialogue.
There are a whole host of reasons why that fight makes no sense, but just the notion of Nick Diaz making a comeback is concerning. It has been clear that Nick doesn't actually like fighting, he's been consistent about this for a very long time. He has not won a fight in 8 years, with his last win coming over a natural lightweight in BJ Penn — who has since gone into an unending career death spiral. The last time Nick fought, he and Anderson Silva gave us something closer to performative dance than an MMA bout. It seemed like a culmination of all Nick's prior statements about how unenjoyable violence is to him, he showed up to the cage but couldn't pull the trigger.
If Nick was not intoxicated, then his condition raises questions about accumulated head trauma, or other potential health issue be it mental or physical. Aside from appearing disinterested in his last few fights, what sort of physical decline has occurred since then? For someone who last fought at middleweight, and has a history of competing in triathlons and endurance sports, Nick didn't look all that good physically. He wasn't overweight or visibly out of shape, but photos of him and Nate showed him physically dwarfed by his younger brother. A basic eyeball test suggests Nick has spent far more time in the club than the gym.
Can Nick get back into fighting shape? Almost certainly, but the fact he isn't in shape already brings the sincerity of his desires into question. Is he telling us he's making a comeback or is he still trying to convince himself?
Regardless of what Nick said about fighting in 2020, he didn't sound the part nor did he look it either. Nick's fights with Takanori Gomi and Paul Daley are the stuff of legend. Both Diaz brothers, when sufficiently motivated, have produced a lot of entertaining moments in and out of the cage. I consider myself a fan of both Diaz brothers, but I have had no desire to see Nick compete since the Anderson Silva fight. He doesn't seem to enjoy it, and I have genuine concern for the mental toll the world of fighting takes on him. He seems less capable of dealing with the stressors in his life.
As much as I would love to see an inspired Nick Diaz throw down in the cage, nothing indicates to me that guy still exists.
Published: November 27th, 2019.