2020 was a difficult year for many. The UFC was a leader in sports with its ability to hold events throughout the worldwide pandemic. Although there were many events held in either Las Vegas or Abu Dhabi, there are a few fighters who never made that walk the whole year. Whether it be for illness, injury, or just plain waiting, these five fighters sat out all of 2020 but we hope they return to the Octagon in 2021.
Nate Diaz is one of the biggest draws in the UFC now. His dual showdowns with Conor McGregor led to his rising success after ten years in the organization. Those two fights shot him to the top of the payment tier in the UFC as well and the repercussion of that is that he wants the big money for every fight. The problem is that not every fight is the giant blockbuster that the McGregor matchup brings. His last time walking into the UFC Octagon was in November of 2019 when he fought Jorge Masvidal for the BMF title. That bout had a lot of hype behind it a drew the type of round and PPV buys that Diaz was looking for. Following the loss, talk of a rematch began to circulate but never materialized.
Nate Diaz is waiting for another big fight. He needs the likes of a rematch with McGregor or Masvidal to get the payment he desires. If that means waiting years then he just might. Already he has been out for over a year, and although he is seen on social media or YouTube training, he hasn’t accepted a fight. His brother Nick Diaz is looking to make his UFC return in 2021, so maybe Nate will as well.
Ryan Hall made his UFC debut on The Ultimate Fighter 22. He was a grappling pro who quickly earned the nickname “The Wizard” due to his slick submissions. Perhaps due to his amazing ground game, Hall has had trouble finding opponents. He has a very unique style that many may find difficult to deal with and because of that Hall has noted that many fighters have refused to take a fight with him. He last fought in July of 2019 when he won a vis unanimous decision over Darren Elkins. Elkins was on the rise at the time and Hall, who is now on an eight-fight winning streak proved that he is not only a submission fighter.
Hall was linked to a fight with Ricardo Lamas last year in May but after the event was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the bout was moved to August. Hall suffered an injury and was removed from that fight. Hopefully, he can find a worthy opponent who is willing to dance and can set something up for 2021.
Nina Ansaroff was heading up the UFC strawweight rankings in 2017-2018 with four wins in a row. She lost her last bout against Tatiana Suarez back in June of 2019 and has been out of competition since. The reason for her absence was that she was pregnant with her and her partner, UFC champion Amanda Nunes’ first child. The two welcomed a daughter in August and now Ansaroff is ready to continue her MMA career.
She will not have to wait too long to get back in the Octagon in the new year. Ansaroff already has a comeback fight set up. She is scheduled to face fellow mom Mackenzie Derm on April 10. The location of that fight is not yet determined but if things are going to continue as they have Las Vegas seems the most likely option.
Gillespie joined the UFC back in 2016 and since then has compiled a very impressive resume. The 33-year-old former collegiate wrestler made a splash in the UFC lightweight division. The lightweight division is one of the most stacked in the entire organization and Gillespie showed over the course of his seven UFC fights that he belongs to be among the best. Coming off the first loss of his career back in November of 2019, Gillespie has not returned to action inside the Octagon since. The loss to Kevin Lee came in New York City at one of the biggest events of that year. His last three fights were all in New York State, however with the coronavirus pandemic most of New York was shut down and certainly, no events will be held for some time.
Fans of “The Gift” would love to see him back in the UFC Octagon as soon as possible in 2021. Gillespie is always entertaining inside the cage and outside the cage. Since joining the UFC only one fight has gone the distance and most don’t make it out of the second round. He has won two Performance of the Night bonuses and was involved in one Fight of the Night bouts.
Al Iaquinta is one of the toughest guys in the UFC lightweight division. He puts on great performances but maybe doesn’t have the best all-around record. He has had his share of ups and downs since coming to the UFC back in 2012 but has always fought constantly. It has been over a year since Iaquinta last stepped foot in the Octagon and as of now, a return is not on the schedule.
Since stepping in on very last minute notices to challenge Khabib Nurmagomedov for the lightweight title back in 2018, Iaquinta has lost two. His last four were all decisions, two wins, and two losses. Prior to that, he had locked up four TKO victories. Iaquinta lives in New York and the lockdowns could have been a part of his absence this year, although he was seen in the corner of his teammate Aljamain Sterling back in June. Iaquinta is a real estate agent as well and perhaps he is more focused on that at the moment. Whatever the reason, he is a fan favorite and a great fighter who needs to make a comeback in 2021.
Hopefully, this new year is just as successful for the UFC as 2020 turned out to be. Even though we want these fighters back in action we also want to be able to see them in person. Of course, safety is the most important thing for both the athletes and the fans, so we are hoping for the best.