“I don’t recommend anybody be a fighter,” Diaz admitted on a Wednesday media call. “Fighting is not something that I enjoy doing, it’s something that I do that I feel I have to do. That’s just the way it is. There’s a lot to it.”
It’s that love-hate relationship with MMA that has seen Diaz sit idle since a March 2013 loss to Georges St-Pierre. He was never too far out of the spotlight, with both fans and media consistently bringing up his name whenever a marquee UFC athlete needed an opponent. But Diaz consistently turned down those opportunities, leading to UFC President Dana White to label the fighter as “retired.”
The 30-year-old Californian said he never considered himself truly retired, but with 13 years of professional competition under his belt, Diaz believed he simply needed a break from the strains of the fight game.
“I never really made the statement that I was retired,” Diaz said. “What I meant by the whole thing is that you’re never really retired from martial arts. It just doesn’t happen. Some people just don’t look at martial arts the same as I do. They don’t have the same perspective or didn’t get into this the same way.
“I just pretty much needed some time off, regardless, and you don’t really get time off in the UFC without retiring or getting hurt, and I guess I don’t break easy like some of these guys.”
During his time away, Diaz (26-9 MMA, 7-6 UFC) maintained he would only return for a rematch with St-Pierre, a potential superfight with Anderson Silva (33-6 MMA, 16-2 UFC) or an immediate shot at a UFC title. He remained steadfast in that position until the bitter end, only returning when the UFC offered up a shot at “The Spider,” a man long considered the top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.
The two now meet at UFC 183, which takes place Jan. 31 in Las Vegas.
“They were offering me fights, and I wasn’t really interested in the fights that they were talking about for pretty much the whole year,” Diaz told MMAjunkie. “So I pretty much dealt with different aspects of life. It’s been what it is. Now we’ve been able to sit down and talk about it a little bit, and I think that I was looking for pretty much the biggest fight I could get myself into, just like always. That’s what I’ve always done since I was 18 years old and I made it to the UFC.”
The MMA world has been buzzing since the announcement of the superfight. Sure, critics might say that with Silva reeling from two-straight losses to Chris Weidman, the matchup has lost a bit of its shine. But ultimately, the matchup involves two of the most exciting and polarizing fighters in the sport today – or of pretty much any era, for that matter.
But Diaz scoffs at the notion that he could or should somehow be “excited,” even if it seems everyone else involved in the sport is already counting down the days.
“I don’t enjoy fighting,” Diaz said flatly. “I don’t use that word (excited) in this sport. I use that word like maybe I’m starving, and food is showing up. I’m getting excited. That’s excitement. Or I’m excited to have a couple of days off. I’m excited to fight somebody? I don’t know if people are confused with that term when it comes to fighting.
“Would you enjoy fighting Anderson Silva?”
Yet on Jan. 31, Diaz will do exactly that. With a win, White has suggested a title shot could come next, an opportunity for which Diaz admits he would be intrigued. But any type of long-term planning for Diaz’s future seems to be impossible for now, as the perennial fan-favorite admits he’s only taking his career “day by day, fight by fight.”
Diaz, it seems perhaps more than anyone else in the sport today, doesn’t fight because he wants to, only because it’s somehow ingrained in him as a human being, however difficult that may be for him to accept.
“I don’t want to hurt anybody,” Diaz admitted. “I’m a non-violent person. I don’t especially enjoy violence. … I hate watching people get hurt. Some of these guys come out and say, ‘I just want to hurt somebody. I just love it.’ Sometimes I want to say, ‘You’re full of shit.’
“I do what I do because I’ve got to do it.”