Nate Diaz last fought on June 12th 2021, having lost a unanimous decision against Leon Edwards. The fight ended with Nate rocking Edwards with his signature straight down the pipe jab-cross after getting dominated for four and a half rounds. Nate, in quintessential Diaz fashion, then proceeded to taunt and mock his opponent until the closing of the bell. The fight ended in mystique and what-ifs, leaving fans around the world debating, much like in the Masvidal fight, what would have happened if Diaz had more rounds to continue.
There is no denying the draw, the intrigue and the following that Diaz brings to the UFC, however, the fighter now has just one fight left on his current deal. Nate has been calling for the UFC to set him up with an opponent for months, highlighted in a saga of tweets where Diaz has been calling out various opponents from Dustin Poirier to UFC lightweight champion, Charles Olivera. Diaz even recently took a shot at his latest target, the UFC, having posted a picture of himself urinating outside of the Performance Institute.
While the usual call outs and media hooks all seem mundanely familiar to Diaz fans, the fighter’s tweet against the UFC and series of call-outs is no laughing joke. Diaz is in a precarious position due to the fighter publicly expressing his disinterest in staying with the UFC, having hinted at exploring free-agent opportunities. This would mean that after his next UFC fight, if Diaz and the UFC cannot come to terms with signing on to a new agreement, the UFC superstar could leave the UFC and explore emerging channels of opportunity, such as boxing with the likes of the Paul brothers.
In recent months, the UFC has made it a priority to retain their biggest stars with new and more lucrative fight deals, highlighted by the likes of Jorge Masvidal and Israel Adesanya signing new contracts. Signing and retaining their biggest stars was never a problem for the UFC due to its reputation as the magnum opus MMA organisation that, much like the American dream, characterized itself on big competition and big rewards for those that work hard enough. However, with new competition emerging, widening career options are becoming available for fighters and the UFC, for the first time, must grapple with this new reality that dreams may lay elsewhere for fighters.
The UFC recognises that if this is the fighter’s last bout with the company, then it is in the organisation’s interest to ensure his last fight is the most commercially viable. Unlucky for Diaz, this means that he has little sway in influencing who he fights next, meaning the UFC can (and likely will) continue to draw out and squeeze the fighter for every penny that he is worth. As the provocations and tensions grow between the two, it seems unlikely a new deal won’t be struck, and Diaz’s final fight will be dictated by the UFC’s tightening grip on the fighter. While the opportunities for fighters are widening, one must wonder how many more of these situations we are going to see.
Regardless of how this relationship develops, be sure to look out for Diaz’s next fight as it could be his last in what has been a legendary career in the UFC.