Nick Diaz is still acting like Nick Diaz, and everybody stands to benefit

LAS VEGAS — The strategy Nick Diaz should employ when he meets Anderson Silva in a highly anticipated superfight at UFC 183 on Jan. 31 in Las Vegas seems obvious to armchair observers: Attack Silva's left leg, which was so hideously broken last year, and do so early and often.

It might seem like a no-brainer to the layman. But then, that's what separates the people outside the Octagon from the elite level-competitors on the inside.

Diaz, the former Strikeforce welterweight champion, told reporters at a recent UFC news conference that he's not going to focus on Silva's leg, because doing so could throw him off his all-around game plan.

"When someone tells you a fighter's injured and they tell you to go after an injury, it really throws you off," Diaz said. "It would be sad to lose a fight on account of, you're trying to concentrate on capitalizing on someone's weakness when it comes to injury and something like that, [rather than fighting] your fight without worrying about something like that."

The pride of Stockton, Calif., was just getting warmed up.

"I fought someone a long time ago," Diaz said. "Someone came up to me and told me that [his opponent's] knee was hurt, and he said to me, attack his knee, I'm like, 'Yeah right, I'm not going out to attack this guy's knee.' It just doesn't … it's not realistic to go after his injury, unless they got a cut the same week, then it's like, yeah, hit him in the eye, because the [expletive] is going to re-open and now you wouldn't fight on the cut. Maybe on a cut you want to take advantage of it, that makes sense."

Nick Diaz took plenty of shots at rival Georges St-Pierre during the UFC's 'Time is Now' press conference. (USAT)
Nick Diaz took plenty of shots at rival Georges St-Pierre during the UFC's 'Time is Now' press conference. (USAT)

In recent years, the mixed martial arts world seems to have been slowly drained of its personality, as charismatic figures have stepped aside and the UFC's corporate expansion has turned the bulk of their events into a conveyor belt of anonymous fighters spouting the same clichés.

Maybe that's why the return of Diaz, the sport's ultimate anti-hero, seems like such a refreshing blast from the past. With his unique blend of Stockton street cred, exciting fight style, and an obvious intelligence that tends to get a bit lost in translation from his brain to his mouth, you might love Diaz, you might hate him, but you're always going to pay attention.

Ask Diaz about any subject, and you're going to get a blunt answer.

Does he enjoy fighting? "[Expletive] no. Do you want to be there on [fight] day, how about you trade spots with me like two fights before the fight goes off?"

What does Diaz, who has twice been suspended by the Nevada Athletic Commission for marijuana, think about the recent marijuana legalization push in several states? "I don't think that's the most terriblest thing in the world to go down that road, the natural path, instead of a different type of medicine. Your fighters are dealing with trauma and injury. I see a lot of people hooked on painkillers."

And finally, the big question: Does Diaz finally think he's being paid enough? "No. It's enough for me to come out and fight. I just kind of feel good, to fight my right fight. That's why I have to go out and see. You gotta get out there and make stuff happen for yourself."

Diaz, who lost to then-welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre at UFC 158 on March 16, 2013, wasn't ready to simply move down the ladder after 36 career fights. He gauged that if he sat out rather than fight for its own sake, eventually the right fight, at the right time, for a potential great payday, would come along.

His gamble paid off. As it is, the return of Silva, the former longtime middleweight champion, from an injury many thought would be a career-ender, was destined to be a big draw, regardless of whom he faced. Now add in Diaz, a popular fighter coming off a hiatus of his own, in a match in which both are known for competing in a crowd-pleasing style.

The pairing makes for a blockbuster, to the degree it doesn't even need any trash talk to help with sales.

"He's a real nice guy and he has a mutual respect and we don't have a personal issue with each other," Diaz said of Silva. "We don't have a personal issue with each other for now."

But that won't stop Diaz from taking umbrage with others. On Chael Sonnen's podcast, St-Pierre said that he believed Diaz, who has fought as low as lightweight in his career, made a mistake by accepting the bout at middleweight, rather than at a lower catchweight.

Will Anderson Silva's previously broken leg hold up in the Octagon? Time will tell. (Getty)
Will Anderson Silva's previously broken leg hold up in the Octagon? Time will tell. (Getty)

"He's just mad because he didn't take the fight," Diaz said. "A good fight, a lot of attention. I don't know why he has anything to say. I don't have anything to say about him. He had nothing to do with the situation, but he decided to voice his opinion about my situation. He thinks I made a mistake in not taking a catchweight. The truth is, why not? I have to lose weight to make 185 pounds anyway, and you know, I can gain weight, then I beat this guy and he's like, 'Yeah, you had to cut a lot of weight.' I fought at 185 pounds and I should have a lot of energy. So I'm going to fight someone bigger than me; I'd rather have a lot of energy."

Diaz, in fact, would also welcome another fight with St-Pierre, who defeated him in a unanimous decision.

"If I do well and he comes back in the sport, why not?" Diaz said. "I see myself having a better run too, but, maybe just not being in Canada where you can just be on steroids, because they didn't drug test me for that fight. I probably would have tested positive. So I know they didn't test him. They don't drug test in Canada."

For the record, Quebec commission did drug test at UFC 158, testing six random fighters, all of whom passed and none of whose names were revealed.

But does it matter? Nick Diaz is back, and the sport is a whole lot more interesting than it was without him.

Follow Dave Doyle on Twitter @DaveDoyleMMA