VENICE, Calif. — It is 2 a.m. on a weekday, which implies even this vibrant, stylish space west of L.A. is nearly silent. Nate Diaz, nonetheless, is conscious.

Sitting on a sofa in the lounge of his Airbnb, two blocks away from Venice Seashore, Diaz is partaking in considered one of his favourite pastimes: scrolling via his Instagram feed. A member of his crew jokes that if Diaz does not reply to a textual content, and also you need to know if he is deliberately ignoring you, test his Instagram exercise. As a result of if he has his cellphone, he is nearly all the time liking one thing.

Tonight, it is a video of his previous pal Snoop Dogg. In it, Snoop is sitting in a tub, his signature braids coated in suds.

“I instructed you, man,” Snoop says. “Ain’t nothing like taking a m—–f—ing bubble tub.”

Diaz, who on the time is 5 weeks away from a welterweight contest in opposition to Anthony Pettis at UFC 241 — his first struggle in three years — tilts his head again and laughs. “That s—‘s humorous as hell.”

UFC 241 incorporates a heavyweight championship rematch and the return of some of the widespread stars within the UFC. Daniel Cormier will defend his title in opposition to Stipe Miocic, and Nate Diaz fights for the primary time in three years, taking up Anthony Pettis. Order UFC 241 now

UFC 241: Cormier vs. Miocic 2
• Saturday, Anaheim, California
Early prelims: ESPN+, 6:30 p.m. ET
Prelims: ESPN, eight p.m. ET
Fundamental card: ESPN+ PPV, 10 p.m. ET

UFC 241 Content material:
• Why did Nate Diaz disappear?
• 24 hours within the firehouse with Stipe Miocic
• UFC 241 greatest bets
• Breaking down Cormier-Miocic II

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On this setting — surrounded by individuals he trusts, recent off a sparring session, a glass bong inside attain — Diaz is the focal point. Animated, outgoing, humorous. He acknowledges most individuals do not get to see him like this. Most individuals have not seen a lot of Diaz, interval, since his blockbuster rematch in opposition to Conor McGregor in 2016.

“Oh, I discuss,” says Diaz, when it is introduced up how quiet he has been in recent times. “I discuss all day round [my older brother] Nick. He’ll be like, ‘Cease speaking.'”

Diaz’s total vibe modifications, nonetheless, the second it is clear a dialog has changed into an interview. An interview, by the way in which, that Diaz initially agreed would happen 12 hours earlier on the Venice Seashore Boardwalk. However on the scheduled 2 p.m. begin time, Diaz needed to “go for a run.” Plans modified to start out the interview at 3:30 p.m. Then 4:45. Perhaps 11. Ultimately, 2 a.m.

And when the cameras are lastly rolling, and Diaz is requested the million-dollar query — Why, after one of many largest fights in UFC historical past, did you disappear for 3 years? — it takes him a minute to heat up. To get snug. Despite the fact that, simply 5 minutes in the past, he was the chattiest individual within the room.

What’s unusual about this sudden change is that Diaz has a solution. He is simply hesitant to share it. It is well-known he nearly by no means grants interviews, and that is no coincidence. If there’s one factor Diaz is acutely protecting of, it is the message he shares and with whom he shares it.

“These guys [the Diaz brothers], they’re gonna really feel you out and get to know you earlier than they let you know something,” says Gilbert Melendez, Diaz’s buddy and coaching accomplice for over a decade. “Most individuals on this sport have a tendency to simply provide up their story. However Nate, he nearly interviews you earlier than you get to interview him.”

However tonight, on this nondescript room that now smells faintly of marijuana, Diaz has agreed to be interviewed. And the world needs to know, Nate: The place have you ever been?

It feels like a easy query, however it bears a fancy clarification. Diaz’s practice of thought is never a straight line. At one level, in the course of a query, he abruptly stands up to make use of the restroom.

And greater than as soon as, he feels the necessity to lean ahead and ensure the message he believes in so strongly is not getting misplaced in translation.

“Is that this all making sense?”

Nate Diaz says that after UFC 202, the promotion “ostracized” him. Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC by way of Getty Photographs

THERE WAS A time in Diaz’s 15-year profession when he believed he had the complete consideration and assist of the UFC. He simply did not know what to do with it.

In 2007, at 22, Diaz gained “The Final Fighter” actuality TV sequence. Competing as a light-weight, he completed all 4 of his opponents on the present, and was simply the season’s most memorable character. He went on to win his subsequent 4 fights within the UFC, which prompted UFC president Dana White to increase him a private invitation to Las Vegas.

“Dana White’s flying me out like, ‘Hey, let’s play poker and do that and that,'” says Diaz, who was born and raised in Stockton, California. “I am only a child. He takes me to play poker — effectively, I do not f—ing know find out how to play no poker. I am in Vegas with Dana White in a Ben Davis jacket, like, ‘What’s up? What are we about to do?’

“Now, I understand, ‘Oh. That was my time.’ I used to be too f—ing younger. I did not know nothing about none of that.”

At the moment, Diaz was doing what most younger fighters do — no matter they’re instructed. He misplaced two shut choices in 2009. Moved as much as welterweight for a recent begin, however struggled with the scale distinction. After transferring again all the way down to 155 kilos, Diaz went on a roll and earned a title shot in opposition to Benson Henderson in 2012, solely to be sad with the paycheck connected to it. He misplaced that struggle, and grew overtly disgruntled together with his contract. On the top of his discontent, Diaz accepted only one struggle in a two-year span, a call loss in opposition to Rafael dos Anjos.

In 2016, Diaz got here to gather on every little thing he felt the game owed him. He created warmth with the game’s largest star, Conor McGregor, throughout a postfight interview after defeating Michael Johnson. He accused McGregor of taking every little thing he’d labored for.

The callout labored. Diaz booked the McGregor struggle at UFC 196 that March, and submitted him within the second spherical. 5 months later, Diaz agreed to a direct rematch — although he by no means felt McGregor deserved one.

Based on reviews, the rematch at UFC 202 set the corporate file for highest-selling pay-per-view on the time with an estimated 1.6 million buys. It was the largest struggle in UFC historical past. And Diaz had made up half of it.

However as soon as McGregor edged out a majority choice within the second assembly, Diaz felt just like the UFC turned its again on him. In his phrases, the promotion “ostracized” him. Quite than grant him a direct shot at payback, because it had for McGregor, the UFC booked McGregor in a light-weight championship bout in opposition to Eddie Alvarez in New York. And the next summer time, the UFC helped promote one of many largest fights of all time, a boxing match between McGregor and Floyd Mayweather.

Diaz, 34, says he has nothing in opposition to McGregor’s success. That is the UFC machine working for McGregor, the way in which it might need labored for Diaz again in 2008 had he realized what White was actually providing in that Vegas invitation. Had Diaz stopped combating simply anyone in 2008 and brought full benefit of the UFC machine behind him, how a lot totally different would his profession have been?

There is not any technique to know. However what Diaz did know was that after reaching the top of the game’s reputation in 2016, he was by no means going backward. If the UFC did not need to make a McGregor trilogy bout straight away, nice. However the place was his model of McGregor’s title struggle in opposition to Alvarez? The place was his Mayweather?

“Now, I understand, ‘Oh. That was my time.’ I used to be too f—ing younger. I did not know nothing about none of that.”

Nate Diaz on his Vegas assembly with Dana White in 2008

What Diaz needed was for the corporate he’d been working for since he was 22 to provide you with a plan for him, the identical approach it had for McGregor — the man he felt he bested of their two-fight rivalry.

“He was simply put in all the suitable locations, you understand what I am saying?” Diaz asks. “And I am not even f—ing hating on that. That is nice. That is cool as hell. It is cool what he is doing and what he did, however, like, you are a spoiled little b—- as a result of they handed you all of that. You did not do s—.

“You got here again and gained a [decision in the rematch] … It isn’t the identical [as the submission win]. If this have been conflict, you are lifeless, canine. I obtained all of your s—. It is all mine. There isn’t a second struggle.”

Regardless of not having a struggle booked for 3 years, Nate Diaz continued to coach with the intention to be prepared for his return. Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC by way of Getty Photographs

ON AUG. 3, 2018, the UFC held a information convention in Los Angeles, bringing within the prime fighters scheduled to compete within the second half of the yr. Sixteen athletes have been scheduled to look onstage earlier than the general public that day, and each considered one of them was current when the information convention started. Each one besides Nate Diaz.

Between 2016 and 2018, Diaz and the UFC had mentioned a number of choices for a comeback struggle. Diaz claims the UFC provided him then-welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, however on brief discover. White would later say that supply was by no means on the desk. There was discuss, briefly, of matching Diaz with Georges St-Pierre, however it fizzled earlier than getting anyplace.

“They known as with some petty s—,” Diaz says. “Simply lame. I am unable to even bear in mind [some of the names]. I would not even discuss to them, man. I used to be like, ‘They’re f—ing with me.'”

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The week of that Aug. Three information convention, nonetheless, Diaz had come to phrases on a struggle in opposition to light-weight contender Dustin Poirier in November. The bout was agreed to by either side, however the UFC was nonetheless finalizing the cardboard’s most important occasion, and Diaz hadn’t signed his contract. Based on White, the UFC requested Diaz to do this backstage earlier than strolling out to the information convention.

“After we’re going out and spending the form of cash it takes to placed on these press conferences, we would like guys signed,” White tells ESPN. “I would not say he is the one one we’d do this with, that is not true, however there are specific guys the place I need a deal signed earlier than we begin selling it. We want assurances that we all know it may occur.”

Diaz signed the contract and went onstage, noticeably late. The group went nuts. A full-throated “Diaz” chant broke out. He was again. It was the largest information of the day.

For about 10 minutes.

On the finish of the information convention, the UFC dimmed the lights and performed a video asserting the yr’s megafight: McGregor vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov. By the point the lights got here again on, Diaz was gone.

A TMZ digicam caught up with him on the road, as he walked away from the information convention. “F— the UFC. F— all this s—,” Diaz stated. “We’ll see if I am even combating [Poirier]. They higher begin appearing proper and begin over-promoting, as an alternative of under-promoting. They introduced me to this press convention late.”

Nate Diaz’s final UFC look got here at UFC 202 in opposition to Conor McGregor. Steve Marcus/Getty Photographs

In the end, the Poirier struggle by no means occurred. Diaz says he by no means truly pulled out, that he has by no means pulled out of a struggle in his profession. Poirier, who ended discuss of the matchup when he publicly revealed a hip damage, stated Diaz negotiated himself out of the bout.

“Dustin Poirier [chickened] out is what occurred,” Diaz says. “There was no matter happening with the UFC — they have been f—ing with me, I used to be f—ing with them — however he jumped out of the struggle as a result of he could not cope with it. He could not sleep at evening.”

Underlying Diaz’s total state of affairs with the UFC, and no matter causes he had for stepping away, is a primary query followers have requested, repeatedly, these final three years: Does he need to struggle or not?

Based on White, that is the one cause behind Diaz’s absence. “He hasn’t needed to struggle.”

That is insane to Diaz, as a result of combating is all he is aware of. His total life is a struggle camp, a lot in order that he by no means stopped coaching these final three years, although it struck him as odd to take action with no struggle booked. He believes he is the perfect fighter on the earth, to not point out essentially the most marketable.

So when Pettis, a former UFC champion who as soon as graced the quilt of a Wheaties field, completed Stephen Thompson with a highlight-reel knockout in March, Diaz noticed a possibility. Had it not been Pettis, maybe it could have been 2019 breakout Jorge Masvidal, whom Diaz seen “did his factor” final month together with his five-second KO of Ben Askren.

Diaz says he’s all the time prepared to struggle, he is simply not prepared to struggle anyone. For the remainder of his profession, he is solely combating someone.

“I am institutionalized to the struggle recreation,” Diaz says. “I am telling myself to take it simple and never practice as a result of I am not combating, however then I am like, ‘F— all that.’ I feel the struggle wasn’t with the fighters no extra. The struggle was with the entire group. And I am like, ‘Nicely, I am dropping this struggle if I am simply going to sit down right here and die off.’ I needed to get again to what I do.

“This struggle is taking me away from all of the lame-ass fighters that are not doing s—.”

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