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UFC 266: Nick Diaz returns while Alexander Volkanovski defends title against Brian Ortega


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It's rare that a feature bout overshadows a UFC main event, but the return of a mixed martial arts legend makes that inevitable.

While Alexander Volkanovski's featherweight title defence against Brian Ortega headlines UFC 266, the build-up for Saturday's event in Las Vegas has been focused on Nick Diaz.

After six years away from the octagon, Diaz is back for a rematch with fellow American Robbie Lawler, and even a man who has headlined his past four UFC events has been overwhelmed by the interest.

"At this age, I didn't expect to catch so much heat and expectation," said Diaz, 38.

He became a fans' favourite not just for his no-nonsense fighting but his tendency to be brutally honest, to keep it real.

And just this week Diaz told ESPN: "I really don't want to do this. I've never enjoyed fighting. I try to get away from it but it's just what I do."

So back he is, and he retains hope of becoming a UFC champion and "levelling up" with his brother Nate Diaz, 36.

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Why is Nick Diaz back, and what took him so long?

Since Nick's last fight, Nate has overtaken him for star status after huge fights with Conor McGregor and Jorge Masvidal. They have a similar build and the same rugged, durable fighting style, but older MMA fans know it was Nick who paved the way.

Growing up surrounded by a gang culture in Stockton, California, Nick dropped out of high school after a year and had his first professional fight just after his 18th birthday, in August 2001.

He went on to win titles across several promotions and returned to the UFC in 2011, challenging Georges St-Pierre for the welterweight belt in 2013 and facing Anderson Silva in 2015.

But Diaz was then suspended after testing positive for marijuana for a third time and, even after he was eligible to fight again, he was "kind of all over the place" and "really had to slow it down".

A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, he began teaching and planned to set up his own gym until business partners let him down. Now he's fighting again because he feels he doesn't know what else to do.

"Win or lose, I've got to fight," he said. "I didn't expect it to drag so hard coming back; it's been kind of a mission. But I've got some fights left, I'm in pretty good shape."

Diaz knocked Lawler out in the second round of their first contest way back at UFC 47 in April 2004 then, like Diaz, Lawler spent several years in other promotions.

After returning to the UFC in 2013, he briefly held the welterweight title but the 39-year-old has lost his past four fights.

Saturday's bout has been switched from welterweight to middleweight, but if Diaz makes a winning return, he expects to face current welterweight champion Kamaru Usman.

'I don't know why I'm doing this - whoever set this up is an idiot'

While rising to MMA stardom, Diaz was never comfortable in the spotlight, and over the years he has failed to show for several media events.

He'd rather let his fists do the talking so, as usual, this week there has been no hype from Diaz, no frills. He was a no-show for the media day but gave a refreshingly raw interview with ESPN in which he was clearly conflicted about MMA.

In stark contrast to the bravado usually shown by fighters, Diaz admitted to feeling stress and doubt, and questioned why the UFC picked Lawler as his comeback opponent.

"It doesn't make sense - I don't know why I'm doing this," said Diaz. "Whoever set this up is an idiot."

"I have a lot of resentment towards the sport for taking so much from me but not giving anything back," he added.

"All the people around me, all the money and sp

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