Last week, it was announced that Nick Diaz was planning on returning to MMA in early 2021. Diaz has not fought since his 2015 bout with Anderson Silva that was overturned to a no-contest after both men tested positive for banned substances (Silva for performance enhancing drugs, Diaz for marijuana). But despite his long absence from the cage, there were no shortage of welterweights raising their hands to be the first one to welcome Diaz back. Leon Edwards, Darren Till, and Stephen Thompson were just a few who threw their hats into the ring to fight the elder Diaz but perhaps more notable was who didn’t volunteer.
Following his welterweight title winning performance at UFC 202, Tyron Woodley called for a fight with Diaz, which sparked a simmering feud between Woodley and the Diaz brothers and, depending on who you ask, nearly led to a fight between Woodley and Nate Diaz. But despite his long-held interest in facing the elder Diaz brother, Woodley has not joined the throngs of contenders calling for a fight with him. Instead, Woodley seems to be adopting a wait and see approach to this latest return rumor.
“If you want to fight, fight,” Woodley said on The Hollywood Beatdown on TMZ Sports. “We don’t need a big build up. We don’t need a test weight cut. If you want to fight, fight. Sign a contract and get in the octagon. It’s been so much talk about if he’s gonna fight. Even his brother, ‘Is he gonna come back?’ I think that they deserve the hype that they’ve gotten because when they were fighting years and years back, they weren’t getting paid hardly anything. Go back and pull up the public records on what Nate Diaz made the fight right before Conor McGregor. They’re kind of embarrassing compared to what he ended up making in that fight and the second fight.
“So when you look at it, I have to respect them for staying with it and staying to the point where they were still relevant enough to make the money that they probably deserved a long time ago. But if he wants to fight, just fight. What do we need to do this whole hoopla?”
Woodley is not the only one with this sort of reaction. Even UFC President Dana White admitted that he has “no expectations” about Diaz’s possible return given the frequency with which this has happened in recent years. However, this go around does seem to at least have a little more earnestness than previous iterations, in part because the effort taken to perform a test weight-cut, whereas previously these rumors where usually started by an errant interview where Diaz called someone out. And if this time, it’s actually for real, Woodley is fully supportive of it, even going so far as to call Diaz a future Hall of Famer.
“If he comes back to the sport, I think it will be good to have another household name back in the sport competing,” Woodley said. “But if he doesn’t, he doesn’t. I think he’s done enough in his career, in my opinion, to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.”
That’s a big claim from Woodley. Though Diaz has a respectable record in the UFC, he never won a world title in the organization and all the biggest moments of his career have taken place outside of the octagon. However, Woodley believes that you can’t separate those other accomplishments from Diaz’s career and explains why he feels Diaz belongs in the Hall of Fame.
“I think (he deserves it), because he was one of the original bad boys,” Woodley said. “There’s some people in the Hall of Fame that had never won a world title, whether it’s just a fight, there’s so many different categories of it. But when you think about it, he came over from Strikeforce, he had a crazy reputation then, and I think you’ve got to take some of that into account when you’re thinking about a Hall of Fame inductee. They bought the organization, they bought the rights to all those fights, so I think the accolades have to come with that.”
Woodley’s argument is not entirely without merit. Kazushi Sakuraba, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and Bas Rutten are all in the UFC Hall of Fame despite being more often associated with other organizations, and Sakuraba never won a UFC title, only a tournament. That being said, all three of those men were inducted in the Pioneer Wing of the Hall of Fame and Diaz’s career legacy is significantly more complicated.
But Woodley doesn’t have time to concern himself with Nick Diaz. This weekend, the former welterweight champion is finally set to face bitter rival Colby Covington in the main event of UFC Vegas 11. And though Woodley appears to have put his beef with the Diaz brothers to bed, he shares no such sympathies with Covington.
“I want to knock him out to the point that when they’re raising my hand and they’re talking, they’re still gathering him,” Woodley said. “Hopefully, they’re stretchering him out and trying to get his legs to unstiffen, and still trying to get the mouthpiece out of his mouth. . . No I’m not gonna shake his hand. I’m not gonna shake his coach’s hand most likely. This is for real for me.”
UFC Vegas 11 takes place this Saturday at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nev.