After six years away from the fight game, Nick Diaz mounted his mixed martial arts (MMA) comeback against Robbie Lawler at UFC 266, a man he defeated 17 years ago and one who he didn’t really seem too thrilled to be fighting again. Despite his questionable pre-fight remarks, Diaz stepped into the cage against his old foe. And what we got was a nice back-and-forth fight before it abruptly ended in the third round when Diaz decided he didn’t want to continue.
For as long as the fight lasted both Diaz and Lawler put it all on the line, exchanging non-stop strikes, going toe-to-toe for about 11 minutes. But, we can’t look the other way and pretend that Diaz wasn’t slow and that his punches lacked his trademark snap. He still popped off his offense as best he could and gave us brief glimpses of the Diaz of old, though he ate a lot of shots for his efforts.
To that end, while Lawler was unloading some good punches on the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace, Nick showed the heart and durability that made him a fan favorite ... until he couldn’t anymore.
It was somewhat of a bizarre ending, one that left the majority of fight fans disappointed for the simple fact that they wanted more. After all, the fight was scheduled for five rounds for no reason whatsoever other than to see more of Nick.
The manner in which the fight ended brought everyone back to this pre-fight interview where Diaz led fans to believe that he was fighting moreso to please other people than himself. While he changed his tune a few days later, the thought of him not wanting to be there was already embedded in people’s minds.
And taking a knee shortly after eating a right hook only added fuel to the fire.
Diaz didn’t have anything to prove on Saturday night and, to be honest, he looked more like someone who was fulfilling contractual obligations as opposed to someone who actually wanted to compete for sheer passion and enjoyment. His post-fight comments and his teammate's tweet only strengthen that theory.
Lost in all the Diaz hoopla is Lawler, who isn’t getting nearly enough credit for his performance. Sure, he’s been more active than Diaz, but he hadn’t competed in a year and lost four in a row prior to last weekend. People may not realize that Lawler has 20 years in the fight game, just like Diaz, is now 39 years old (Diaz is 38) and has more fights under his belt than the Stockton slugger.
My point is, he looked like someone who actually wanted to be in the cage.
I was as excited as anyone to see Diaz out there if nothing more than for nostalgia purposes, but I also didn’t expect him to be the fighter of old (or to see him wave off the fight). If he doesn’t compete again I would be perfectly fine with that decision. And that’s not criticizing a legend of the sport, who put it all on the line for years just because he lost a step or two.
On the contrary, I simply don’t want to see him take anymore unnecessary damage when he has nothing left to prove. He entertained us perhaps one final time and that should be good enough for fans and for the people around him, UFC included.
We know he's not the fighter he once was, so let’s not try to force him to be.
For complete UFC 266: “Volkanovski vs. Ortega” results and play-by-play, click HERE.