Diaz has been absent from the cage since a January 2015 fight with Anderson Silva, with many assuming that the former Strikeforce champion was essentially retired.
But his manager Kevin Mubenga confirmed to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani that the 37-year-old will fight next year.
The Stockton, California native completed an intensive 14-week training regimen and has conducted a test weight cut, and is currently somewhere between 165lbs and 175lbs, according to Mubenga, and is keeping a watchful eye over prospective bouts in the UFC welterweight division.
Diaz last fought in January 2015 where he was defeated on the judges’ scorecards against former middleweight champion Anderson Silva, but the fight was subsequently declared a ‘no contest’ after both men failed post-fight drug tests (Diaz for marijuana, Silva for a combination of steroids).
He was linked to a comeback fight last year against Jorge Masvidal, but talks between the fighter and UFC brass didn’t develop.
Diaz’s younger brother Nate eventually fought Masvidal for the UFC’s “BMF” belt in Madison Square Garden, where Masvidal was awarded the victory after doctors stopped the fight at the end of the third round due to a series of cuts around the younger Diaz’s eye.
Nick, meanwhile, is considered by most to be among the most exciting fighters in recent mixed martial arts history, but hasn’t claimed a win inside the cage since a 2011 trouncing of former UFC lightweight champion B.J. Penn in what was the last of an 11-fight win streak.
He was subsequently defeated by Carlos Condit and Georges St-Pierre in a UFC welterweight world title bout prior to his five-round contest with Silva.
A comeback in early 2021 would represent six years between fights for Diaz and would inject immediate interest into the UFC’s 170-pound title picture, should the returning fighter look impressive on his return. The UFC’s “BMF” title may also come into play, too.
It is also likely that a Diaz comeback fight would provide the UFC with a significant uptick in interest, given Diaz’s reputation and the significant public interest in seeing one of the sport’s most iconic and colorful characters attempt what would be a Lazarus-like return to active competition.