LAS VEGAS – The UFC may suddenly have a Nick Diaz problem.
That's hardly breaking news, since it's had one sort of an issue or another with the mercurial former Strikeforce champion for much of the time it's had him under contract.
This problem, though, has little to do with Diaz missing airplanes or skipping public workouts, as he's wont to do.
After dropping all five rounds on all three cards to Georges St-Pierre in his last UFC appearance almost two years ago, Diaz was again on the wrong end of a similar result Saturday at the MGM Grand.
Former middleweight champion Anderson Silva made a triumphant return to the sport he'd dominated for years, winning a unanimous decision by scores of 50-45, 50-45 and 49-46 in the main event of UFC 183 at the MGM Grand Garden.
On the other side, the loss was Diaz's third in a row and left him with a murky future. He hasn't won a fight since man-handling B.J. Penn on Oct. 29, 2011, and isn't thrilled to continually come up on the short end.
He remains one of the UFC's more popular attractions. Silva is one of the company's long-time superstars, but even against Silva, there were loud and frequent chants of "Diaz! Diaz! Diaz!"
It's pretty obvious, if he chooses to fight, even with an 0-3 mark in his last three outings, people will watch. But Diaz wasn't sure what his plans might include, saying, "I'm tired of being a loser."
He dabbed at a badly swollen, black and blue left eye as he spoke, showing the disappointment of another hard-fought loss. He said he injured his left arm in training and that it would frequently "lock" on him at what appeared to be a 45-degree angle.
He said he spoke to Dr. Steven Saunders, who had operated on Silva, and Saunders told him there might be bone chips or bone spurs that could be removed surgically.
"If I'm not punching, what do I need surgery for?" Diaz said.
Diaz clowned in the first round and managed to get a lot of laughs, sticking his chin out, shuffling his feet, leaning back against the cage while waving Silva in. At one point, he even dropped to his back in an attempt to get Silva to grapple with him.
As is almost always the case, it was Diaz who pushed forward most of the fight, but he simply didn't land nearly enough punches. According to FightMetric, Diaz landed only 80 total strikes, far below his normal output.
He was frustrated by Silva's manner of attack. Silva is a counter striker and didn't go after Diaz. That led Diaz to trash talk Silva throughout the fight, but never moreso than in the opening round.
"I just never try to beat someone on the scorecards," Diaz said. "It will never happen. It's just not in me, I don't think. I'm just quick to criticize someone for even going there. 'Are you doing this, really? Are you not going to try to finish this fight?' "
That, more than anything else, is what frustrates Diaz. He doesn't appreciate gameplans and nuance and patience and counter striking.
He is a man-to-man, nose-to-nose, in-your face striker. May the better man, the tougher man, win.
And so he's frustrated and seems like he'd rather walk away. But he conceded he's finally making some money and knows his popularity will keep him getting solid paychecks for the foreseeable future if he chooses to keep going.
"It doesn't feel good to have to argue with someone [about the decision] when they have their opinion," Diaz said. "I'm having to avoid too many arguments. I'll tell you, I wish I would just fall off and people would just stop talking about me. But that's just not happening."
UFC president Dana White isn't certain what he'll do with Diaz. He signed Diaz to a contract extension in July, but it's almost always a fight-to-fight deal with Diaz because he's not a guy you plan for long term.
After losing to St-Pierre, Diaz took nearly two years off before getting the bug back to fight.
"I don't think it's about what I think is going to happen with Nick," White said. "It's about what Nick wants to do next. Who knows? Who knows what Nick's going to do? Nick made a lot of money tonight. He might not fight for three years this time."
Silva gave Diaz a ringing endorsement should Diaz choose to continue.
"I respect Nick and Nick is a great fighter," Silva said.
He's even more popular than he is talented. Fans love his counter-culture approach and his love of a pure fight.
But while the fight game loves Diaz, Diaz doesn't always love it.
Silva said his 17-year-old son cried on the telephone when they spoke after the fight, urging him to retire. But it could be both fighters in the main event who walk away.
With Diaz, though, the only thing to expect is the unexpected.