As of March 29th, ESPN announced that Leon Edwards will welcome Nate Diaz back from a 16-month hiatus at UFC 262 in Houston. Ariel Helwani and Nate Diaz himself both confirm the matchup on Twitter. UFC 262 will be the second event hosted by the promotion to have a full crowd since COVID restrictions began in March of 2020. The event is scheduled to have Michael Chandler and Charles Oliveira fight for the lightweight title as the main event.
The announcement comes as a refreshing surprise for fans. Leon Edwards has been in a perplexing place in the picture for the welterweight title. Edwards has suffered from a lack of spotlight and a lengthy layoff since his win over Rafael Dos Anjos in the summer of 2019. The waiting-game was extended over months and had another extension when Edwards could not travel to the United States from his home in the UK due to COVID-19 restrictions. Edwards was scheduled to fight against rising star, Khamzat Chimaev, but was postponed due Chimaev testing positive for COVID-19.
When Edwards finally stepped into the Octagon early this month to fight Belal “Remember The Name” Muhammad, another stump appeared on the championship road. The fight ended in a no-contest due to an unintentional eye poke in the second round of a fight that saw Edwards in winning form. But now it seems that Nate Diaz has risen to the occasion of fighting Edwards.
Diaz himself has had a long layoff following his against Jorge Masvidal in Brooklyn, New York for the BMF title. A few months prior to that was his decision victory against Anthony “Showtime” Pettis and before that… an entire three years out of the octagon. After his second fight with Conor McGregor in 2016, Diaz has rested and held out for bigger pay using the prospect of a trilogy fight with McGregor as leverage. The announcement of a fight against Edwards is also a match that could put Diaz in the title picture if he wins.
Of course, the announcement of a fan favorite fighter like Diaz and a highly recognized contender like Edwards has the online MMA fandom in a huge buzz. MMA on Point mainstay, MacMalley has this reaction on Twitter:
Dana White: How the fuck do we make Leon Edwards appeal more to the casual and hardcore fans? They hate him. I want good ideas and I want them immediately. Sean Shelby: pic.twitter.com/sbqVOygMKs — MacMally🍀 (@MacMallyMMA) March 31, 2021
Fellow Unknown MMA writer, Johann Castro thinks the matchup is a wise decision on the part of the UFC.
My guess is that this was done as a favor to Leon. Get him a proverbial “money fight” or a fight that will undoubtedly showcase his skill against a name. I’m happy for him. He deserves it and casuals will actually buy into him after beating the soul out of Nate Diaz. https://t.co/djkayZW2UZ — Johann Castro (@thejohanncastro) March 31, 2021
Sasha Alexander only had one word to say in response to the announcement.
DAAAAAAAAMMMNNNNNN#UFC https://t.co/YAEAAmUdAf — Sascha Alexander (@Sascha_pm) March 31, 2021
Aqua MMA shows his surprise as well.
Leon Edwards vs Nate Diaz gets announced: The whole MMA community: pic.twitter.com/6EG1rtjI9K — AquaMMA💎🥃 (@AquaMMA___) March 31, 2021
Ryan Hobbs isn’t as excited as everyone else but seems to be a huge Diaz fan.
I hate the matchup but I will always celebrate a new Nate Diaz fight. STOCKTON! pic.twitter.com/mBe3WI3XYM — Ryan Hobbs (@RyanHobbsMMA) March 31, 2021
Jed I Goodman doing his due diligence as always.
Current line: Leon Edwards -275 Nate Diaz +220#UFC262 pic.twitter.com/AVSGy8UG56 — Jed I. Goodman (@jedigoodman) March 31, 2021
Check me out may 15th I’ll be headlining #ufc262 in Houston Texas I’ll also have the new UFC lightweight title fight on the card I need people to know these guys are they’ve been working very hard and I can’t wait to see who gets my old 👑 I’ll see uguys there 👊🏼 — Nathan Diaz (@NateDiaz209) March 31, 2021
Nate Diaz vs Leon Edwards?! pic.twitter.com/dpweyL97k0 — MS (@UFC_Obsessed) March 31, 2021
I'm so fucking excited pic.twitter.com/S41lIxSp15 — ShayMyName2 (@imstillshannon) March 31, 2021
Never would’ve guessed Diaz vs. Edwards, but it’s actually kinda perfect. Should be competitive. Offers Edwards opponent with huge name value. Offers Diaz potential move to front of the division with win over top contender. Not a rankings thing, but setting up next huge fight. — Luke Thomas (@lthomasnews) March 31, 2021
Wonderboy has some questions.
pic.twitter.com/OcedYSGaUn — Stephen Thompson (@WonderboyMMA) March 31, 2021
Cover photos by Amanda Sanchez