As Nate Diaz heads into the main event against Gray Maynard this Saturday, he knows a win is paramount for him. Not just so the former Ultimate Fighter winner can get back on track, but because he’s hungry to earn another title shot.
After losing his last two fights, Diaz has his sights set on defeating Maynard so he can make his way back up the ladder of the lightweight division to confront Josh Thomson again. If all goes according to plan, Diaz wants to clash with the current UFC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis as well.
At media day ahead of The Ultimate Fighter season 18 finale, Diaz spoke with reporters and discussed fighting Maynard for a third time and why he’s got Thomson and Pettis on his radar.
Where Maynard is concerned, Diaz knows “it’s a new fight” and that they both have changed as fighters over the past few years. They last fought in 2010 and Maynard took a split decision over Diaz.
During The Ultimate Fighter season 5, the two fought it out to advance to the finale. Diaz saw his hand raised after submitting Maynard. Though this was their first fight, it’s off the official records being that it was an exhibition bout.
As they prepare for their next meeting, Diaz realizes that they’ve both developed and changed as fighters. Most importantly, he just wants “to go out and do well and win.”
“It’s important to win the fight however I can do it,” Diaz added.
Diaz thinks if he gets past Maynard come Nov. 30, he can make his way to getting his vengeance on Josh Thomson. Thomson made his return to the UFC by unleashing a head kick that led to his TKO win over Diaz at UFC on FOX 7. That night was also the first time Diaz was ever stopped by strikes. Maynard will be Diaz’s first fight since then.
If he can get past “The Punk”, Diaz sees himself on a path to fighting “Showtime”. Once he’s successfully completed his mission, he plans to return to competing in the welterweight division.
“I lost to Thomson and Anthony Pettis is the champ and he’s supposed to be the hot s**t right now,” said Diaz. “Those guys are the guys to beat. And on top of it, I was ready to go to 170. I’m like over making weight and doing all this because you know, I don’t feel I get paid good enough to lose weight all year long. I could make the weight, no problem…I can make it happen. But, I wish I’d get compensated a little better for it and I was ready to go [to 170].
“But, at the same time, I wasn’t going to leave this division letting these two mother f*****s running the show, because I’m going to leave after I take all these fools out because I fought everybody else. There’s Thomson now who beat me so I gotta beat him back. Gilbert already whuped him anyway too, so I ain’t even…but I I’ll catch him too down the road, eventually. Pettis too. I’m not going to leave the division letting them be like ‘this is our division’. It’s a weird little thing I got going on up here.
“I could have left. I had no motivation before. When BJ Penn was the champion forever, and I was fighting in the UFC, I remember I really had no motivation to fight for a title because we’re friends with BJ Penn at the time. Before he took the fight with my brother and I wasn’t even considering taking a fight with him. So I was just kind of fighting to fight and win to make money, stay on a win streak whatever I can. And then, Frankie Edgar came out and trained with me a little bit when Ricardo Almeida was fighting in Oakland. So then I trained with him a little. Now, his teachers are Ricardo Almeida and Renzo Gracie and those are my teachers’ cousins. So I was like ‘ok we’re cool with these guys’,” Diaz stated.
So, he didn’t want to fight Frankie. By the time Benson Henderson unseated Edgar as the champion, Diaz was all-in on going after the title. However, Diaz fell short in his title bout with Henderson at UFC on FOX 5.
“And then there was Henderson who wasn’t a very entertaining fighter anyway. And if you lose to Henderson it’s going to be boring, and if you beat Henderson, you have to play some boring ass game to beat him. So that wasn’t too motivating of a fight either. And now these two mother f*****s come in like they’re the hot s***. So I wasn’t going to just bounce out of the division with them running the show. Me and Gilbert [Melendez] are going to run a show here and then I’ll be on my way. If I get on my way. But, I’m ready to fight those two after I do this Gray Maynard thing.”
Diaz vs. Maynard is the main event of The Ultimate Fighter finale taking place on Saturday, Nov. 30. The fights begin airing on FOX Sports 1 beginning at 5 p.m. PST. The first bout takes place at 4:30 p.m. on the UFC’s Facebook page.