No matter how civilized and sporting his peers in the UFC try to act about the practice of fighting in a cage on live TV, Nate Diaz isn't buying it.
"Everybody who fights tries to sell themselves as a great sportsman and competitor, a great athlete," Diaz said. "We're out there trying to damage each other and finish each other. We're trying to take each other out. We both want to win by knockout or submission or some type of finish rather than decision. I think that's pretty unsportsmanlike in itself."
Diaz (16-7 MMA, 11-5 UFC) fights champion Benson Henderson (17-2 MMA, 5-0 UFC) for the UFC lightweight title at the UFC on FOX 5 event at Seattle's KeyArena on Saturday night (FOX, 8 p.m. ET).
If you've ever seen the 27-year-old Diaz fight, you know how intense he is. For Diaz and his older brother, UFC welterweight Nick Diaz, mixed martial arts is a way of life as much as it is a vocation. Both seem to approach every fight as if it couldn't be more personal, as if every opponent has wronged them in some egregious and unforgivable manner.
At times, that's made the Diaz boys into controversial figures in the MMA world. Even the UFC's promotional materials for the network TV title fight refer to the younger Diaz as "notorious," and not without reason. In 2010, the brothers were involved in an ugly post-fight brawl that was broadcast live on CBS during a Strikeforce event.
Now Diaz has his shot at one of the coveted UFC titles, and in a fight that puts him squarely in the network TV spotlight again. At the same time, Diaz explained, that doesn't mean he's going to pretend that a fight is anything other than a brutal struggle dressed up as sport. And, when you think about it, maybe that's the most refreshingly honest approach a fighter could take.
Against Henderson, Diaz faces an opponent who not only embraces the fighting-as-sport philosophy, but excels at it. While Henderson has been criticized for adopting a style that plays more to judges than fans, he's also won five consecutive fights in the UFC, all by decision. That makes him a formidable opponent for Diaz, who occasionally gets so wrapped up in his own desire to do damage that he loses rounds against more tactical opponents.
The champion's approach might be more calculated, but, "I think he's just doing what he's got to do to get through the fight," Diaz said.