What's Next for Nate Diaz After Loss to Leon Edwards at UFC 263?
Nate Diaz needed a win at UFC 263, having not fought since Jorge Masvidal strafed him in 2019. Unfortunately for the California native, that win didn't materialize. Instead, he lost a clear-cut decision to No. 3-ranked welterweight contender Leon Edwards on Saturday in Glendale, Arizona.
Diaz had his moments. He had a particularly strong fifth round, tagging Edwards with a crisp one-two combination, punctuated by a bit of trademark trash talking. After five frames, however, it was clear the Brit was not only the bigger but also the significantly better fighter.
That leaves Diaz in a tough position. While he remains one of the sport's biggest stars and a veritable darling among fans, he's 2-3 since 2016. That's a tough mark, even for the brightest of stars.
So where does he go from here? The list of options is growing shorter, but it's not blank yet.
Conor McGregor Trilogy
This will always be the biggest fight available for Diaz.
He and Conor McGregor share perhaps the most high-profile rivalry in MMA history. They split two blockbuster fights—which happened to have headlined two of the most lucrative pay-per-views in MMA history, UFC 196 and 202.
Diaz won the first fight in March 2016, as an underdog, with a second-round submission victory. McGregor then evened the score with a majority-decision win in their August 2016 rematch. The grounds for a tiebreaking trilogy fight have existed ever since, but so far, it hasn't materialized.
Despite Diaz's loss to Edwards, the trilogy still makes plenty of sense. Granted, McGregor will likely be looking ahead to bigger and better things if he defeats Dustin Poirier at UFC 264 on July 10, but all Diaz needs to do in that event is wait for the Irishman to sustain another loss or two—and Diaz has proved that he's plenty willing to wait around.
Their third fight feels inevitable. It's just a question of when.
This might strike some fans as an unlikely option, given that Diaz has been losing fights at welterweight and Poirier is the No. 1 contender in the lightweight division, but hear us out.
They have a score to settle. They were briefly scheduled to fight at UFC 230 in 2018 but never made it to the cage together after Poirier suffered an injury. Since, Poirier has repeatedly expressed interest in fighting Diaz, despite the fact that the matchup makes little sense from a rankings perspective.
"Before I'm done fighting, I'll go up to 170," Poirier said on the Joe Rogan Experience in February (h/t Alexander K. Lee of MMA Fighting). "Yeah, I'll go up to 170 to fight Nate."
"Me and him were supposed to fight at Madison Square Garden. I kind of was the fall guy. He gets to point and say I pulled out of the fight, and I did. I went to get stem cells done on my hip.
"But I was going to fight. I was going to go through a camp and fight him if they wouldn't have started offering me other replacement opponents. Nate was playing games with the UFC; UFC started offering me opponents, and I said, 'Look, guys, if this is happening, I'm just going to have my hip taken care of.' He's a guy I've always wanted to fight."
Sure, it doesn't make a ton of rankings sense, but not every fight has to. If Poirier is willing to give Diaz this opportunity—particularly if the former loses to McGregor at UFC 264 this July—why not book it? Excitement is all but guaranteed, and the pre-fight buildup would be plenty entertaining.
Robbie Lawler or Carlos Condit
Diaz has never been a true welterweight. Why he continues to fight—and lose—in the division is almost unfathomable, but here we are.
If Diaz's stubbornness regarding sticking to the welterweight division continues, he's short on options, but not devoid of them.
One of the most compelling matchups is a fight with former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler.
Lawler, like Diaz, has been fighting for what seems like eons. He's also one of the few fighters who can match Diaz in terms of intensity and excitement.
Perhaps best of all, Lawler has history with the Diaz family, having lost to Nate's older brother, Nick, in 2004.
A fight between Diaz and former interim welterweight champ Carlos Condit could also make sense. Condit, like Lawler, is regarded as one of the most exciting fighters in UFC history and also has history with the Diaz clan, having beaten Nick via a controversial unanimous decision in 2012.
Either man would make a solid opponent for Nate Diaz, but make no mistake: These matchups would be purely for fun and not about title contention.
This one will sting for Diaz fans, but it might be the most likely option.
Diaz has never been one for fighting frequently. Instead, he tends to bide his time—often for years on end—and wait for the biggest possible fights to materialize.
Unfortunately, the 36-year-old is running dangerously low on big matchups. If bouts with McGregor, Poirier, Lawler or Condit don't materialize, his most likely course might simply be to retire.
He's made his millions. At 20-13, his legacy is set in stone. If that's the path he chooses, he can walk it with his head held high.