The 30-year-old Diaz, who has long marched to his own drummer, has not fought since March 2013 when he lost to then-welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre at UFC 158 in Montreal. He had announced his retirement 13 months before after losing to Carlos (The Natural Born Killer) Condit but returned to face GSP for the title.
Diaz (27-9-1) then dropped out of the spotlight although his name kept resurfacing, usually with UFC president Dana White saying that Diaz had refused another bout.
"They were offering me fights and I wasn't really interested in the fights that they were talking about for pretty much the last year," Diaz told a media conference call Wednesday.
"I was looking pretty much for the biggest fight I could get myself into. Just like always."
A Jan. 31 date with former middleweight title-holder Anderson Silva at UFC 183 — the UFC's marquee Super Bowl card — along with a new contract extension proved to be enough to bring the rebel fighter from Stockton, Calif., back into the UFC fold.
The 39-year-old Silva has not fought since suffering a horrific leg injury in a loss to middleweight champion Chris Weidman last December at UFC 168.
The return of Diaz and Silva gives the UFC two more marquee names sorely needed due to injuries and the proliferation of fight cards. The pay-per-view show originally slated for December in Montreal, for example, may be pushed back to March — likely due to lack of a suitable main event.
Diaz is a polarizing figure, an accomplished Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with prickly boxing skills who fights with a sneer on his face — usually while talking trash to his opponent.
No lover of media commitments, his refusal to play by the rules was demonstrated when he failed to show up for a Toronto news conference when he was originally scheduled to meet St-Pierre. The UFC promptly pulled him from the title bout.
Still his "I don't give a damn" attitude has won him plenty of fans.
Diaz's time away from the sport after the Condit loss was also enforced after he was suspended a year for a positive marijuana test (he was also banned for the same reason following a 2007 Pride fight). Diaz told the Nevada State Athletic Commission after the most recent failed drug test that he had been prescribed a medial marijuana card to help deal with his ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
Younger brother Nate is equally abrasive with a signature win that included flexing his muscles and displaying two middle fingers while opponent Kurt Pellegrino was locked in a triangle choke.
Nick Diaz says his time away from the sport was beneficial and productive, both physically and mentally.
"I spent the last what, almost 16 years with some sort of tournament, competition or an MMA fight," he said. "It's been a real experience."
Diaz said it seems like he has always had a fight looming, be it in real life growing up or the UFC.
"After 37 fights, what 16 years, being extra-serious, that'll do something to somebody," he said. "It's pretty rough. I don't recommend anybody to be a fighter. Fighting is not something I enjoy doing. It's something I do that I feel I have to do and that's just the way it is."
"I don't like to hurt anybody," he added. "I'm a non-violent person."
The six-foot Diaz has fought at both welterweight (170 pounds) and middleweight (185). He says he walks around at close to 200 pounds and that making 170 has been "pretty rough" in the past.
He said he had never really quit the sport, saying you never retire from martial arts. He just wasn't going to take a fight he wasn't happy with.
"I just pretty much needed some time off regardless and you don't really get time off in the UFC without returning sometimes or getting hurt. I guess I don't break easy, like some of these guys."
Asked about his new contract extension, he said: "I can't complain. I can't ask for anything more. I'm happy with the deal that I made."
"It's hard out there," he added. "Especially when the rest of these guys aren't getting paid what they should be getting paid. And they sit around and they can't open their mouth about anything for the most part when it comes to what they do."
Diaz said he's willing to speak out, where others aren't.
"It's a really complicated road if you're an MMA fighter," he added.
Diaz demonstrated that when asked if he was excited to fight a legend like Silva.
"I don't use that word (excited) in this sport," he said. "I use that word like maybe if I'm starving and food's showing up. Or I'm excited to have a couple of days off."
Asked again if he would enjoy getting in the cage with Silva, he was definite.
"Definitely not. Would you enjoy fighting Anderson Silva?"
Asked what he expects from Silva given his injury layoff, Diaz was noncommittal.
"You never know what you're going to get. Life is like a box of chocolates," he replied, referencing the film "Forrest Gump."
Diaz said he was taking his career "day by day, fight by fight."
"I don't need much. I can survive without fighting. The thing is I just want to do the best I can, like everybody else."