Who should Nick Diaz face in his return?

If the rumors are to be believed, UFC fans could witness the return of the OG Stockton bad boy in the near future. 

Nick Diaz (26-9) was once one of the biggest draws in the sport. His subversive attitude coupled with his all-action fight style captivated fans through the late 2000s and early 2010s.

But, that was then. 

Diaz hasn’t graced the Octagon since 2014 when he lost a unanimous decision to Anderson Silva. After the bout, they handed the Stockton banger an absurd five-year suspension because of marijuana metabolites being present in his system during his post-bout drug screening. Though the ban was lifted a year later, Diaz has remained absent from the big show.

One fighter who has been mentioned as an opponent for Diaz is the surging Khamzat Chimaev. Chimaev, a high-level wrestler, would likely be a terrible match-up for the elder Diaz who just wants to bang, bro. Sure, the win would put Chimaev over with more casual fans, but it almost seems like a waste.

Diaz needs to return in spectacular fashion; win or lose. We need Diaz flipping birds, taunting, and throwing that volume boxing. Suffocating a cult icon against the cage will only lessen future bouts and furthers the short-sightedness the UFC has shown over and over throughout their history. Give Diaz a fun tune up fight to get fans intrigued, then use him to try and put over one of the young guys if that’s the route UFC brass goes.

There’s a good chance the 37-year-old will not have a title run, so let’s have some fun. 

Here are some much more interesting match-ups for the former Strikeforce champion.

Niko Price 

Hey kids, do you like violence? If so, this would be the one for you. Niko Price has only gone to a decision twice in his 20-fight career and ten of his fourteen victories have come via knockout. Even in defeat, Price went out on his shield, fighting to the end. 

With both Diaz and Price possessing the kill or be killed mentality that beckons fans, this should be an easy decision for UFC matchmakers. 

Mike Perry

This would truly be a battle of who gives less of a f-ck. Parts of Mike Perry’s shtick seems ripped from the pages of the Diaz bros. handbook. The lead up would make for some epic trash talk and there’s a good chance it would extend to the cage on fight night.

Perry is tough as nails and the type of guy to throw caution to the wind and go for the glory in the cage. 

Robbie Lawler

After one of the most impressive career resurgences in all of MMA history, “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler now finds himself on a four-fight losing streak. Lawler has showed glimpses of his old self here and there in those bouts, but overall, he seems to be on the downside of his career. With Diaz having been out of the game for so long, a clash with Lawler would probably help to gauge where both men are at this point in their careers.

It must be mentioned that Lawler and Diaz fought way back in 2004, and Diaz knocked out his adversary in impressive fashion. A rematch with Diaz may awaken the beast lurking within “Ruthless” and give us one last banger from the former UFC champion. 

Jorge Masvidal 

The most obvious reason for Nick Diaz to take a bout with Jorge Masvidal is for revenge. Masvidal beat Nick’s younger brother Nate Diaz to a pulp back in 2019. Masvidal has mentioned he’d be willing to fight Nick Diaz many times, most recently post UFC 261 where Nick Diaz was in attendance.

While the idea of a Diaz returning against a top-five fighter after almost seven years away from the sport seems ridiculous, the buildup, redemption angle and both men’s penchant to leave it all in the Octagon would lead to a fun affair.

Li Jingliang

Many were sleeping on Li Jingliang when he knocked out Santiago Ponzinibbio earlier this year. The Chinese fighter punched his ticket to the top 15 with the performance and showed once again why he’s must-see-tv every time he steps into the cage. 

A bout against “The Leech” would give us a decent gauge of where Diaz is at this stage in his career. Jingliang — who has won six post fight bonuses — would be a perfect candidate to bring the ruckus to Diaz. Jingliang has been a staple of UFC’s China cards and is one of the most well-known Chinese fighters on the roster. With the promotion working to expand its reach into China, this fight could have big international implications.