LAS VEGAS – If Nate Diaz is truly done with the UFC following this weekend's pay-per-view headliner with Khamzat Chimaev, UFC president Dana White insists he'll have nothing but praise for the 15-year promotional veteran.
"This kid came in on 'The Ultimate Fighter,'" White told MMA Underground. "He's fought incredible wars for us, and, you know, he's been a big part of this company for a very long time – and what more could I ask of Nate Diaz? You know, if Nate's ready to make this his last fight, I wish him all the best in the world."
Diaz, one of the most popular figures on the UFC roster, came to the organization in 2007, winning "The Ultimate Fighter 5" by prevailing in a 16-man tournament. He has since registered 26 appearances for the organization, including a pair of legendary battles with fellow superstar and former two-division champion Conor McGregor, as well as a 2019 clash with Jorge Masvidal for a specially crafted "BMF" title.
However, in recent times, Diaz, 37, has expressed interest in pursuing options outside of the promotion, openly calling for his release from the organization on multiple occasions.
On Saturday, Diaz (20-13 MMA, 15-11 UFC) headlines UFC 279 from T-Mobile Arena, where he faces fast-rising undefeated welterweight contender Khamzat Chimaev (11-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC). The card streams live on ESPN+ pay-per-view (10 p.m. ET).
It's the last fight on Diaz's contract with the UFC, and he seems primed to walk away from the organization regardless of the result on Saturday night, though White has said a title shot could potentially be earned with a victory.
White wouldn't commit to the fight being Diaz's final for the company but also said he would understand if that's the decision that is made. White also said despite sometimes strained negotiation with Diaz and his brother, former Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz, he'll always look back fondly on his experiences with them both.
"It's been fun," White said. "It's really been fun dealing with those two. At certain times, it was whatever, but looking back, the Diaz brothers have been an absolute blast. They're legends in this sport. They're legends in this company, and these days come with all the guys, and if that's what Nate wants, then we wish him the best."
Diaz recently announced his intentions to launch his own combat sports promotion, Real Fight, Inc., fueling speculation he might even fight for his own brand moving forward. However, Diaz made it clear that's not his intention and said he's not completely ruling out the idea that the two sides could still reach an agreement at some point after UFC 279.
"I'm not launching Real Fight, Inc. because I'm against anybody," Diaz told ESPN. "I'm not going anywhere or doing anything. I have no plan for what my next move is. If something happens in this fight, I might just have to re-sign to get a rematch if I don't whip this motherf-cker's ass right now. Regardless of what happens though, and say I leave or do whatever, the best fighters are in the UFC and have been for a long time and will be for a long time, I'm sure. That doesn't mean the realest sh-t is happening in the UFC."
Whether or not Diaz ultimately elects to return to the UFC after Saturday night or seek other opportunities in free agency remains to be seen. For now, White is simply focused on Saturday's event, which he expects to be a financial success.
"We feel it now," White said."The minute we started posting on Monday, it was a big event. The sellout streak will continue. The gate is probably going to come in north or right on $5 million, and we expect big pay-per-view numbers."
This story first published at SI.com/MMA.