<
>

Nate Diaz unsure why he's in the UFC

Nate Diaz returns to the Octagon this weekend. That part is simple enough.

Describing the circumstances surrounding his return is a little more difficult.

Diaz, 29, is in Phoenix this week to do a job: promote his bout against Rafael dos Anjos at US Airways Center, make weight and fight. He's not there to enjoy himself and he won't.

Now in his 11th year of fighting professionally, Diaz makes that last part crystal clear.

"I don't really like doing this anymore," Diaz told ESPN.com. "I'm trying to get through a couple days of work, cut some weight, do media, fight this guy and go home.

"How would you feel if you were getting ready to fight somebody in a cage in front of everybody?"

When Diaz, a Stockton, California, native, first started fighting professionally, he says the only emotion he really felt was nerves. When he made his pro debut in October 2004, he wasn't thinking about money and he didn't consider fighting a "job."

Years within the industry have changed that. Diaz says he's seen millions of dollars change hands directly related to his work, while he receives "quarters" for it. His displeasure came to a head this year, when Diaz essentially stopped accepting fights and told the UFC he wished to renegotiate an eight-fight contract he signed in late 2012.

According to Diaz and his manager, Mike Kogan, the eight-fight deal was signed with a verbal promise from the UFC that should Diaz ever be unhappy with the deal, the two sides would sit down and renegotiate.

After the signing, Diaz lost his next two fights, bounced back in November 2013 and went to the UFC to renegotiate. The company declined to do so.

UFC president Dana White has stated Diaz was happy with the deal when it was first signed and, with a 1-2 record in his past three fights, is not in a position to ask for a raise.

The holdout ends this weekend. Diaz (17-9) will fight for the first time in nearly 13 months. His return is not based, he says, on anything other than the fact he's "broke." He says he's doing what he has to, to "pay some bills and get some dinner."

Saturday will mark Diaz's 20th fight in the UFC. He has no idea how many more there will be. He potentially has plenty of years left to his career, but heading into this weekend, Diaz doesn't have much optimism anything will significantly change.

He made a disclosed $50,000 for a UFC lightweight title fight against Ben Henderson in 2012. In his last fight, his disclosed pay was $30,000.

Those figures do not represent the total figure Diaz made in those fights, but it's far less than the disclosed $200,000 his teammate, Gilbert Melendez, made last weekend in a failed title bid against Anthony Pettis at UFC 181 in Las Vegas.

That discrepancy likely had something to do with Diaz's holdout. After the holdout didn't work, it now has him wondering where exactly his career is taking him -- if anywhere.

"I have a job to get done this week but at the same time, I don't know what I'm doing here," Diaz said. "I just feel like a company and a fighter should treat each other mutually. Instead, I feel like I put in a hell of a lot more than I get back and when I ask for more, I get trashed.

"I don't think I'll ever get the work and damage I've done to myself back -- and if I keep going, it's just going to get worse. So, what the f--- am I doing it for?"

He says his relationship with the UFC has reached a point he actually believes the promotion is rooting against him this weekend.

"I think they want me to lose," Diaz said. "They put me in a co-main event so it would be a three-round fight instead of a five-round fight. I don't think anyone is on my side here. I think this is all set up to see me go down."

Of course, there are two sides to every story. Anyone can make the argument that Diaz, under his own free will, signed the eight-fight contract in 2012 and White told ESPN.com the promotion obviously doesn't have a say in the outcome of fights.

"I have liked Nate since the day I met him," White said. "We don't determine who wins and loses. The fighters do. I think Nate has to motivate himself by thinking the world is against him."

And Diaz says he does like the matchup with Dos Anjos (22-7), who has won seven of his past eight fights. Should he defeat Dos Anjos, the only fight that would interest him at 155 pounds would be against the champion, Pettis (18-2).

"F--- the title, I just want to beat that guy," Diaz said.

It's an awkward set of circumstances to be under, heading into a cage fight. Diaz is disgruntled, unsure of what his fighting future holds and looking forward to getting it over with so he can go home.

At the same time, he understands exactly what he's signed up to do this weekend -- and the dangers it presents. He says disgruntled or not, he's prepared for what's coming.

"I don't know what I'm doing here, but at the same time I know exactly what I'm doing here," Diaz said.

"I've been representing the UFC for years. I'm like a walking UFC sign. Everywhere I go, they're like, 'UFC's in the house.' But there's no love back. That's how I feel about the situation, but I came to fight. I train to win -- always. Whatever happens with this s--- has nothing to do with the fight. In [the Octagon], it's kill or be killed."