Nate Diaz says he wants to stay active in 2021, and he has two opponents at the top of his wish list.
Diaz, one of the most popular fighters in the UFC, told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani in a video interview published Tuesday that he wants to fight top lightweight contenders Dustin Poirier or Charles Oliveira next, but in the welterweight division or at 165 pounds.
Diaz also said he wants to fight twice in 2021, at “minimum.” He said he’s willing to fight up to four times this year, if possible, and he’d like his first fight to be in April or May.
“I’m ready to get this show on the road. … I’m just trying to get it going,” Diaz said. “Last year, it was a real bummer.”
Diaz has not fought since a loss to Jorge Masvidal at UFC 244 in November 2019, and he competed in the Octagon only twice since his two-fight series with Conor McGregor in 2016. Poirier’s TKO win over McGregor at UFC 257 last month got Diaz’s attention. He and Poirier were supposed to fight in 2018, but the bout fell apart.
Now, Diaz said, would be the right time to rebook that contest.
“I’m not gonna play f—ing nice guy like Conor McGregor just did with him,” Diaz said. “Conor just walked him right in for the taking. I think a fight with me would be more real, a more serious situation for him. I don’t think he could sleep with that.”
Poirier could have a shot at the UFC lightweight title lined up next or a trilogy fight with McGregor. They are 1-1 against each other. If Poirier goes in that direction, Diaz said he’s interested in a fight with Oliveira, who is coming off a dominant win over former interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson.
Two other lightweight contenders, Ferguson and Justin Gaethje, have called out Diaz in recent weeks. But he wants to face someone coming off a victory.
“That’s the guy right there,” Diaz said of Oliveira. “I’ll fight that guy. I like the winners. … I’m trying to fight the guys who are winning.”
UFC president Dana White said last month that the promotion was trying to set something up for Diaz at lightweight. But Diaz said he doesn’t want anything to do with 155 pounds, calling it a “dead division.” He said he’s willing to fight anywhere from 165 to 190 pounds.
Diaz (20-12) is a cult favorite in MMA, having been a part of some of the biggest pay-per-view events in the sport’s history with McGregor twice and Masvidal. The Stockton, California, native beat McGregor via second-round submission at UFC 196 in March 2016, and lost to him five months later at UFC 202.
Diaz, 35, returned to the cage in August 2019, beating Anthony Pettis. Against Masvidal, he fell via TKO because of a cut (doctor’s stoppage) after the third round. There was talk last year about a rematch with Masvidal, but Diaz said he has moved on to “bigger and better things.”
“I think Oliveira is the best fight right now,” Diaz said. “And Dustin Poirier.”