After nearly six months of radio silence, the mixed martial arts community finally received a dispatch from Nick Diaz late last week. The message itself came secondhand but -- just as we suspected all along -- it confirmed two things.
First, the former Strikeforce welterweight champion is returning to MMA.
Second, things in Diaz's world still look wonderfully weird.
We have yet to hear anything straight from the fighter’s mouth, but the 352-word screed from manager Cesar Gracie posted on his fight team’s official website on Friday to announce Diaz’s comeback certainly didn’t disappoint. Diaz has kept a fairly low profile since announcing a spur-of-the-moment retirement amid the frustration of a February loss to Carlos Condit and his subsequent year-long suspension by the Nevada State Athletic Commission after testing positive for “marijuana metabolites.”
Now he’s back and judging from the words of his coach, he’s back with a vengeance.
Gracie’s message -- written in the form of an open letter -- is equal parts press release and personal essay. As brief as it is, it nonetheless brims with the unique blend of spectacular bravado and startling intimacy that have long made this coach and his top stars so captivating.
Like the fighter it represents, the letter jumps quickly from topic to topic and back again without much warning. The longtime trainer’s frustrations are palpable as he characterizes the last few months as “a trying time” and his melancholy barely hidden at “the prospect that one of our team’s most talented fighters had decided to leave the sport.” Throughout the piece, Gracie’s tone straddles the line between wistful and defiant and when he aptly describes his prized pupil’s style as “a combination of technical brilliance and raw violence,” it’s legitimately touching, almost beautiful.
Those feelings are fleeting though, as a few paragraphs later Gracie snaps back into full-on Skrap Pack Mode, lashing out against the “malicious incompetence” of “NSAC bureaucrats” and vowing to fight Diaz’s suspension in court, all without a hint of doubt as to the outcome.
In short, Gracie’s message is vintage Diaz.
Oh yeah, and one more thing: In his first fight back from retirement, Diaz wants to face the greatest mixed martial artist of all time.
Of course he will.
I mean, you didn’t think Diaz was just going to end his retirement and return to MMA without saying something completely amazing, did you? More than anything else, it’s this brand of stunning audacity that has epitomized the guy’s entire fight career.
Here is a man who is not only coming off a loss, but who less than a year ago had a welterweight title shot yanked out from under him due to an inability to fulfill his prefight media requirements and is now serving a second career suspension for marijuana. So, with his immediate future still totally in doubt, Diaz -- obviously -- asks for a superfight against the UFC’s longest standing champion.
Seriously, you couldn’t make this stuff up.
Gracie says he’ll meet with Dana White next Monday to “discuss this and other issues” and (considering how things went last time) any notion that Diaz deserves a bigger, more high-profile bout will probably be met with cackling laughter from the UFC president.
And yet …
And yet …
And yet, matchmakers currently find themselves in a bit of a pickle in dreaming up Silva’s next challenger, don't they?
With his legacy the only thing left for him to care about, the 37-year-old champion is currently turning his nose up at a proposed bout with the inexperienced but dangerous Chris Weidman. There is talk that Rashad Evans might drop down from 205 pounds and vie immediately for the title and a suddenly robust group of middleweight contenders continue to jockey for position just offstage.
Where the UFC goes with that sticky situation is anyone’s best guess.
Meanwhile, with Condit and St. Pierre set to meet before the end of the year and another ensemble cast of title hopefuls fighting it out amongst themselves, there doesn’t appear to be an easy welterweight matchup befitting Diaz’s singular standing in the sport, either.
So, ignore for a moment all of the problems. Forget for just a second all of the reasons why it is a flatly ridiculous idea and you have to admit, Diaz versus Silva might solve a lot of the UFC’s ongoing matchmaking problems in one fell swoop.
Certainly, it would sell better than Silva-Weidman and maybe better than Silva-Evans, too. Despite it all, Diaz remains one of the sport’s more incomparable showmen. His fanbase is loyal (bordering on rabid) and if they showed up to the tune of 400,000 pay-per-view buys to watch him fight Condit for an interim 170-pound title, imagine what the numbers might look like for a bout against “The Spider”?
In the meantime, Weidman would have the chance to rack up one more litmus test fight in order to bolster his resume (who knows, perhaps against Evans) while Condit and St. Pierre would get time to set the welterweight world back on its proper axis.
Would Diaz win a fight against the bigger, stronger, craftier Silva? No, almost certainly not.
Would he even make it to fight night without pulling some new and interesting gaffe? That’s debatable.
But, sanity aside, would we all still pay to watch it? Absolutely.
As is always the case with Diaz, it might just come down to the question of whether the ends justify the headaches.
Yes, a fight with Silva is a crazy longshot, more pipe dream than anything else, but even if it never happens -- wow -- we should all be glad to finally have Diaz back.
Things are just so much more interesting when he’s around.