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Nate Diaz: Circumstances with UFC are better

UFC lightweight Nate Diaz will snap a one-year layoff when he faces Michael Johnson on Saturday in Orlando, Florida. Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

One year ago, Nate Diaz limped out of the UFC Octagon in Phoenix, barely able to put weight on his right leg following a crippling loss to Rafael dos Anjos.

The loss brought a merciful end to one of the worst weeks in Diaz's fighting career. He missed weight by nearly five pounds and forfeited 20 percent of his purse. The UFC also fined Diaz an additional $10,000 for undisclosed reasons.

It was Diaz's only appearance of 2014, as he held out most of the year in an effort to force the UFC to renegotiate his contract. Behind the scenes, Diaz (17-10) was nursing a rib injury. In an interview with ESPN.com that week, the Stockton, California native stated, "I don't know what I'm doing here."

Diaz, 30, returns to the cage for the first time since that loss when he faces fellow lightweight contender Michael Johnson (16-9) Saturday at UFC on Fox inside Amway Center in Orlando. For Diaz, it will mark his 21st appearance in the UFC.

The younger brother of UFC welterweight Nick Diaz, Nate has had his issues with the promotion in recent years, mostly related to an eight-fight deal he signed in 2012. Early last year, the UFC removed Diaz from its official rankings, citing his unwillingness to accept fights as the reason.

At least for the time being, those issues seem to be resolved and Diaz says he's looking forward to "big fights" in the near future.

"Circumstances are just different now, we'll put it that way," said Diaz, when asked about his current contract situation with the UFC. "There was just miscommunication and stuff like that. I'm good with the UFC. Everything is great.

"I'm doing what I've got to do and I want to get back on the scene and get some big fights. I want the biggest fights possible. This fight [against Johnson] will get me going. He's ranked No. 5. I'm going to fight him and then do my thing after that."

Diaz is 1-3 in his last four appearances dating back to a decision loss to Ben Henderson for the UFC lightweight title in December 2012. In the fight against dos Anjos, who is the current lightweight champion, Diaz said he was only 10 percent due to the injured rib.

He claims the UFC was made aware he wasn't going to make weight well before fight week, but neither he nor the promotion made it public. According to Diaz, the injured rib didn't hurt during the dos Anjos bout, but it did derail his preparations.

"I was about 10 percent, and the guy still couldn't take me down," Diaz said. "I told him that while we were fighting. I couldn't prepare for the fight, I had to baby my rib all the way up to it. I asked the UFC if we could make a catchweight because I knew I wasn't going to make weight. Everybody acted shocked when I missed but no one was shocked."

Diaz was briefly linked to a fight against welterweight Matt Brown at UFC 189 in July, but he said the UFC never properly contacted him about it and it ultimately fell through. According to Diaz, he was later contacted about the possibility of fighting now-featherweight champion Conor McGregor at that event, when McGregor's original opponent Jose Aldo fell off the card -- but once again, bout agreements failed to materialize.

Ahead of just his second appearance in 24 months, Diaz says he has continued to train this entire time and his skill set is sharper than ever. He has paid close attention to the lightweight division and hasn't been overly impressed by what he has seen.

"Obviously, I'm fighting for a paycheck," Diaz said. "Everybody is. They can say, 'I fight because it's my destiny' or some bulls--- like that, but we all fight to get paid. But I'm also fighting for myself. If I'm not fighting, I'm dying. So, I need to be doing something.

"It's hard to sit back and not fight when there are so many fights going on and no one's getting the job done. I don't think it's that hard to have a good fight, and it's irritating. You train hard and then sit back and watch these fights and it's like, 'How am I going to sit back while this s--- goes on?' It's ridiculous. I haven't seen a good lightweight fight in a long time. I might as well just get in there and fight."