Sunday, May 22, 2022

Nate Diaz: A UFC Odyssey

Nate Diaz is preparing for a tough battle with Leon Edwards ahead of UFC 263, a fight that surprised many in the MMA world.

Diaz is still looking to fight the toughest opponents by agreeing to face Edwards, who many in the welterweight division have been suspected of avoiding.

Since his decision loss to Jorge Masvidal for the BMF title, Diaz hasn’t made any Octagon appearances, admitting that he’d rather not deal with masks and all of the COVID-19 regulations. Instead, Diaz has continued training alongside his brother Nick, biding his time until he gets an offer that interests him.

Staying Relevant

Still, Diaz has been vocal at times, for instance, after the second McGregor vs. Poirier fight, after which Diaz gave McGregor the critique that he has not learned from his losses during an Ariel Helwani interview. Diaz was careful not to give many (or any) props to Poirier for his victory over McGregor, stressing the fact that McGregor lost the fight more than Poirier won the fight.

If this were 8 Mile, the Diaz Brothers would be B. Rabbit while the rest of the fight game went to Cranbrook. Nate Diaz represents an experiment of what happens when a kid pretty much grows up in the UFC.

A Combat Culture video adds context to Diaz and how he started out as a kid being coaxed into Jiu-Jitsu by his older brother Nick in “The 209” (Stockton, California), which is not the easiest and most comfortable place to grow up. The city of Stockton’s crime rate is three times the national average.

Humble Beginnings

The Diaz brothers grew up fighting in a cage.

The Diaz brothers were raised by a single Mom who drove them an hour or so each way to their BJJ classes. The brothers would train by going on early morning or late night runs through the city, drifting into rich neighborhoods, hungry to carve out a life for themselves with the odds stacked high against them.

Admittedly, Nate originally would go to train BJJ in order to get dinner, which was provided for him after training. Training in BJJ meant a meal everyday, so Nate was onboard initially due to literal hunger for food.

Nate’s hunger for the sport of MMA would ultimately shine through as he earned a spot on the Tuf 5 season. Diaz would go on to win in the final event via submission after Manny Gamburyan shot for a takedown and dislocated his shoulder during the TUF 5 Finale.

Dues Paid the Hard Way

In a world where wealthy YouTubers with a following can leverage fights with the likes of Floyd Mayweather, the Diaz brothers made their bones and earned their spots in the fight game the hard way.

Yet, throughout Diaz’s career, he’s been questioned and sold short, even by Dana White, who famously said in an interview in Dublin that “Nate Diaz is not a needle mover.”

Diaz gives Dana White The Stockton Slap.

There’s an old saying that goes something like, “Define yourself or be defined.” Diaz has rubbed up against this idea throughout his career, but he’s always refused to stay in the sort of box in which a variety of individuals have tried to keep him.

With the advent of social media and the fact that MMA as a sport is getting more and more exposure, Nate Diaz has been able to build a platform that can’t be taken away from him at this point. Since Diaz is vegan and a fairly perpetual stoner, he’s managed to grow a large and diverse following.

Highs and Lows

With his upbringing and his experiences with the political side of UFC, Nate Diaz may or may not have developed a “me against the world” complex. But that’s actually a pretty good complex to have if you’re a professional fighter, given the highs and the lows that just about every fighter experiences over the course of their career.

No matter who Nate Diaz has fought, nine times out of ten he believes he not only actually won that fight, but that he’d beat that person in the event that they fought again. This is what many love about Nate Diaz.

The one thing you cannot ignore about the man is that, although he’s taken considerable time away from fighting in the UFC, he is still in the game, a major player, and willing to fight either the biggest money draws or the best possible opponents he can leverage.

Diaz’s single most important career moment is undoubtedly Diaz McGregor I, which Diaz took on just two weeks’ notice after calling out Conor after beating a very formidable Michael Johnson.

Diaz after beating Conor McGregor via choke.

Diaz won definitively in the second round after dropping Conor with punches and ultimately submitting him by choke, shocking the world.

Dias vs. Edwards

At UFC 263, Diaz is slated to face off against a very suitable opponent in Leon Edwards, who told ESPN that he intends to knock Nate out. This will be no easy feat, considering Conor McGregor could not do it, Jorge Masvidal could not do it, and neither could the vast majority of Diaz’s opponents. Every opponent but one, as a matter of fact. Nate Diaz has only been knocked out by Josh Thompson, who was able to finish him via TKO (which came via head kick then a barrage of punches).

Still, even during the Thompson fight, Diaz only looked to be out for a split second, then he was on the ground and unable to successfully defend.

Diaz, a lanky southpaw, utilizes a boxing heavy style, but he is also a world-class Jiu-Jitsu artist as well. Diaz’s phone booth, dirty boxing style has him taking a lot of damage in many of his fights — and he cuts more easily now as a weathered fighter, as he showed against Masvidal.

The Blueprint

The blueprint to beating Nate Diaz hasn’t changed much over the years. Any fighter who fights Diaz already knows his kicks are weak. Leg kicks are usually going to be easy money against Nate Diaz. Yet, even so, Diaz has still managed to pull out amazing wins.

The Diaz blueprint of calling high-profile fighters out after a victory has been successful, to say the least, and has been emulated by other fighters ever since. Many of the same fighters who use the same methods the Diaz brothers pioneered tend to paint Diaz as a punch-drunk aged-out fighter, but he doesn’t show any signs of quitting.

A trilogy with Conor will more than likely happen, it’s just a matter of when. Something tells me that they both might be holding onto the possibility of ending their careers in the Octagon with a final match to break the tie.

Dreams of holding a belt are likely not close within Diaz’s grasp at this point, but some high-profile fights are undoubtedly still in the future for him (and for Nick, for that matter).

Fighters like Colby Covington might say that Diaz is now a journeyman and that he’s just trying to grab as much fight money as he can, but that might be a reductive sentiment at this stage in the game.

Diaz still has a zeal for combat that overshadows other veteran fighters, which will likely continue to fuel his journey in the UFC, which, when told in its entirety, will perhaps read something like Greek mythology.

What do you think will happen in the Diaz/Edwards fight and where do you think Nate Diaz’s career is heading?

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