In 2014, Dana White famously claimed that Nate Diaz was “not a needle mover”. Following the Stockton native’s successful return to action at UFC 241 on Saturday in Anaheim, the UFC president was full of praise for Diaz as he acknowledged the co-main event winner’s undeniable stock.
White underlined how impressed he was by Diaz’s victory following a three-year layoff from the sport.
“[Anthony Pettis is] an unbelievable ex-champion who has looked ridiculous in his last couple of fights. And you have to talk about the lay off…you have to talk about that this kid hasn’t fought in three years,” said White at the post-fight press conference.
“[Diaz] looked a little rough in the first round, like he gassed out at the end of the first round too and then he completely changed his game plan and started to fight his fight. Once he got there he basically did what he wanted against one of the top-ten guys in the world after a three-year layoff…pretty damn impressive.”
White agreed that Diaz is one of the organization’s biggest stars.
“Yeah…it’s pretty tough to deny,” White replied when asked if Diaz had similar mainstream appeal to the likes of Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey.
“He’s a needle-mover now,” he added, poking fun at his 2014 quote.
White told a story about Diaz in an effort to illuminate his anti-hero appeal.
“It’s stuff like…I did the fighter meeting and I specifically told him not to swear on ESPN. He looked right at me and said ‘motherf*cker’ right after when he was doing his interview on ESPN. Stuff like that…I read this story…I didn’t read the story…I read the headline of one of these newspaper stories on this and it said: ‘UFC needs an anti-hero and here he is…Nate Diaz’ — it’s true. I said it leading up to this fight, he’s the guy that says ‘F*ck you’ to the man, but he never really says ‘F*ck you’ to the man. Every time I see him Nate is always cool. He just has this thing that people like.”
White also insisted that a meeting between Diaz and Jorge Masvidal—a fight Diaz called for in his post-fight interview—is something that he would like to see happen in the future.
“I didn’t answer your question about a Nate Diaz/Masvidal fight. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see that fight? I think everyone would want to see that fight. I don’t know, we’ll wait to see how everything plays out.”