Dana White: 'How much is Nate Diaz worth without Conor McGregor? I don't know'

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Nate Diaz (L) admits he declined an offer from UFC president Dana White (R) to fight Tony Ferguson for the interim lightweight belt. (Getty Images)

UFC president Dana White said Thursday that he did not see Nate Diaz’s interview with Ariel Helwani on “The MMA Hour,” but it sounds like there is little hope of seeing either Nate or his older brother, Nick, in the Octagon again any time soon.

White did reinforce a point to Yahoo Sports on Thursday that Diaz made repeatedly to Helwani during their interview on Wednesday.

“We have been offering them fights,” White said. “We’ve been offering the Diaz brothers fights, both of them, and they turn them down.”

White mentioned that he’d offered Nate Diaz a bout for the interim lightweight title against Tony Ferguson, and that he’d offered Nick Diaz a match with ex-welterweight champion Robbie Lawler, among others. He said both fights were declined.

Diaz said Wednesday that he didn’t take the fight with Ferguson after initially accepting it because of “circumstances.” That’s almost certainly Diaz code for not enough money.

“I gladly accepted that fight and then I gladly turned it down because of circumstances,” Diaz told Helwani.

White said Diaz likely won’t be able to make the kind of money he wants until he becomes a champion and starts to earn a piece of the pay-per-view sales. That’s where the real money lies.

A rubber match with lightweight champion Conor McGregor would make sense, and White would be behind that. Diaz submitted McGregor at UFC 196 on March 5, 2016, but McGregor even the score at UFC 202 on Aug. 20.

White would gladly make McGregor-Diaz III, but McGregor is pursuing a bout with boxer Floyd Mayweather.

A bout for the interim belt with Ferguson would have allowed Nate Diaz to make the kind of money he wanted, White said.

“Whatever his deal is, he’s got a pretty good deal,” White said of the money Diaz stood to make from a Ferguson bout. “I mean, listen, at the end of the day, what is Diaz worth without Conor McGregor? I don’t know. The kid isn’t in a position for pay-per-view or any of that type of [stuff]. But this [a fight with Ferguson] could put him in a position. If he fought Tony Ferguson, it would be for the interim title.

“Obviously, if you held the interim title, you would get a piece of the pay-per-view. Diaz has to put himself in a position to make the pay-per-view money.”

There is little question that the UFC at this stage could use the Diaz brothers. With McGregor sidelined awaiting the birth of his child and then pursuing a Mayweather bout, and ex-women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey all but retired, the UFC doesn’t have that transcendent star who could sell 1 million pay-per-views.

Nick Diaz hasn’t fought since competing against Anderson Silva on Jan. 31, 2015. (Getty Images)

White admitted that both Nate and Nick are popular among the fan base, but said he’s never begged a fighter to compete and never will.

“It doesn’t frustrate me at all [that they’re inactive] because I’ve learned that you can’t make people fight, man,” White said. “It’s the same thing when people ask me, ‘What if this guy retires,’ or ‘What if that guy retires?’ This is a business that, your head has to be in this game. You have to want to become a world champion. You have to want to fight. You have to go through everything it takes to get into the cage. It doesn’t frustrate me at all. We’ll keep offering the Diaz brothers fights until one of them says yes or they [decide to] never fight again.

“It doesn’t change my life one way or another. People really like the Diaz brothers. When they get in there, they’re tough and gritty and they mix it up. They’re fun to watch and their interviews are fun, and funny. They’re popular guys. But at the end of the day, people are excited about guys who want to win world titles and they want to find out who [are] the best fighters in the world in each weight class. Those are the things that sell and those are the things that people are interested in.”

White said that if only one of the brothers fought, he would guess it would be Nate and not Nick.

But he said, “The Diaz brothers are unique to deal with. Nate made a lot of money in that Conor fight and he might never fight again. We’ll see.”

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