Coach reveals what went wrong for Nick Diaz at UFC 266!
Cesar Gracie, longtime coach to Nick Diaz, claims that his fighter was forced to return to the octagon at UFC 266 despite being far from ready for his long awaited comeback.
The older Diaz brother returned to fighting in September of last year at 39 years of age, having been out of active competition since his 2015 bout against UFC legend Anderson Silva. In his first fight back, Nick faced off against Robbie Lawler in a rematch seventeen years in the making.
They first locked horns at UFC 47, where Nick managed to knock Lawler out in the second round; however it was “Ruthless” Lawler who had his hand raised in their rematch at UFC 266 after a TKO-finish in the third round. Nick was forced to take a knee after a vicious hook from his opponent then refused to get up from the mat, prompting the judge to call off the fight. The fan favourite showed glimpses of his former glory during the course of the bout, though he appeared rusty from his prolonged time away from the sport.
Coach Gracie believes that the fight played out the way it did in large part due to a previous neck injury.
“So Nick, he went into that fight and his neck was pretty messed up,” Gracie told Submission Radio. “Robbie’s a great, tough fighter and everything. And, Nick was doing great. And then you kind of see Nick kind of just kind of fading as the fight wore on. So, Nick had an operation very recently here seven weeks ago. So, two of the discs had ruptured in his neck before the fight. So, he was having numbness of the hands. That’s why he didn’t make 170. He fought at 185, cause’ it was impossible to train. He just didn’t have any strength. He didn’t have what you’re used to, the Nick Diaz, you know, he didn’t have it.”
“So, we finally were able to go and he got an operation and he put the titanium discs in his neck. So, he’s feeling great from that right now. And it’s like we’re getting the old Nick back, which is really good. So, now that that’s happened, we’re waiting for the doctors. He’s got another appointment I think next month. And then he should be cleared to start his hard training again. Because right now he can only run and hit the pads and everything. But he definitely wants to fight. And the UFC, I’ve been in contact with them, they just actually called me the other day asking about Nick, and there’s some pretty cool fight options that are in front of us.”
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The injury wasn’t the only setback for the Stockton native in the lead-up to UFC 266. According to Gracie, Nick also owed the Nevada Athletic Commission $75,000 due to him testing positive for marijuana after his 2015 fight with “The Spider” Silva. Following his failed test, Nick was suspended from competition for five years. As a result, he wasn’t eligible to fight until 2020. Marijuana has since been legalised in Nevada and several other states.
“And so what happened was, they said, we’ll pay you more money, but you have to fight this fight here, and on this date. It was a thing. It was like, if you don’t take that fight, you’re almost gonna fight for free, you know, by the time (you pay taxes and the fine).”
According to his coach, Nick was financially pressured by the UFC into taking the Lawler rematch despite not being in physical shape for it. The organization did however pay for his neck surgery following the fight. Gracie claims that Nick is back in fighting shape following the surgery, and is looking forward to competing again next year. There could potentially be an enormous fight waiting for the fan favourite once he’s fight ready.
“Me and my personal point of view on that is that’s the fight I want to see,” Gracie said about a potential fight against McGregor. “I would love to see Nick and [Conor] McGregor fight, 100 percent because I think it would be insane, it would be great. I think they both have respect for each other, their skills and everything, I think it would be an amazing fight, I do. But, Nick is such a loyal guy to his brother, that he looks at that as [Nate Diaz’s] fight and he does not want to step on his toes. Now, if Nate turned to him and said, ‘Hey, look, I’m never going to fight that guy,’ type of thing then Nick would definitely do it. But I would like to see Nate fight him for sure.”
Seeing as Nate is set to headline UFC 279 and take on Khamzat Chimaev in the last fight of his UFC contract, Nick vs. McGregor could definitely be a possibility once the Irishman recovers from his leg break.
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