Nate Diaz will return to the UFC octagon after more than a two-year absence Nov. 3 at Madison Square Garden for an expected firefight of a stand-up bout against destructive puncher Dustin Poirier, the Los Angeles Times learned Thursday.
The lightweight bout will serve as the co-main event at UFC 230.
Stockton’s Diaz (20-11) has participated in the main event of two of the most lucrative UFC pay-per-view cards in history, first by taking a March 2016 fight against Conor McGregor on less than two weeks’ notice to submit him in the second round.
Then, after Diaz and his fighter brother, Nick, engaged McGregor in a bottle-and-can throwing exchange during a pre-fight news conference, he lost to McGregor by decision in one of the most thrilling bouts in the organization’s history.
The asterisk to that was that the jujitsu-schooled, boxing-trained Diaz basked in the riches of the pay-per-view dollars, opting to remain sidelined until another fight capable of generating a massive purse emerged.
He balked at participating in Saturday’s UFC 227 at Staples Center against former two-division champion Georges St-Pierre, with a representative saying Diaz felt that St-Pierre was his brother’s rival, and then St-Pierre fell ill.
Now, Diaz, 33, returns on the third version of an MSG November card that has also performed well in pay-per-view sales dating to McGregor’s 2016 knockout of Eddie Alvarez to win the lightweight belt and last year’s show headlined by St-Pierre’s comeback and stoppage of then-middleweight champion Michael Bisping.
Louisiana’s Poirier (24-5) has risen to No. 3 in the UFC lightweight rankings by winning eight of his last 10 bouts. One was a no-contest last year that Poirier answered Saturday by knocking out Alvarez in the second round of the UFC Fight Night event in Calgary.
Poirier has won three fight-of-the-night bonuses and a performance-of-the-night bonus in his last four fights, which have included knockouts of hyped prospect Justin Gaethje and former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis.
The card will also include a rematch between former middleweight champions Chris Weidman and Luke Rockhold.
In December 2015, Rockhold (16-4) defeated New York’s Weidman (14-3) by fourth-round technical knockout to capture the middleweight belt in Las Vegas.
The fights will be formally announced Friday at a UFC seasonal news conference at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles. Free tickets can be acquired at Ticketmaster.com.