Nick Diaz is a street-brawling enigma who will fight anyone, anywhere (just ask Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor!)… his raw, chaotic style means he is still a UFC superstar despite his six-and-a-half-year exile
- Nick Diaz, 38, makes his long-awaited return to the UFC this weekend
- The Stockton-born fighter has earned a cult-like following among UFC fans
- His raw, chaotic energy was honed on the streets and lapped up by fans
- However, he is an enigma who doesn’t fall into the gimmicks of other stars
The fast-moving nature of the UFC puts the burden on fighters to stay active or else risk being left behind and forgotten by the masses.
But Nick Diaz is one rare exception to this rule.
Despite his six-and-a-half-year absence from the Octagon, Diaz retains a steadfast – almost cult-like – following, with fans salivating at the prospect of watching the 38-year-old return to action this weekend.
Nick Diaz remains a huge UFC star, despite his six-and-a-half-year exile from the sport
In truth, Diaz is the epitome of mixed martial arts. His raw, chaotic style was honed on the streets of Stockton, California, and it’s that street fight energy that, in Diaz’s view, has seen him win over so many fans.
‘I came from a really hard town,’ he told UFC 266 Countdown. ‘The people I grew up with were always fighting, my brother was always getting into gang fights, fights on the street, I got stabbed.
‘I had a mentality from getting roughed around as a kid and put through a lot, you know. I thought that was going on everywhere but it was really just the school I was at.
‘So when I went out there to fight, in front of an audience, they had never seen anything like that and I didn’t know that I was doing anything different, but I had an advantage because of that mentality.’
Raised on the streets of Stockton, Diaz’s chaotic style won him legions of fans in the UFC
The 38-year-old delighted fans with his trash-talking while in the heat of battle in the Octagon
They certainly hadn’t seen anything like Diaz before. His victory over Robbie Lawler – who he faces on Saturday night – is still regarded as one of the greatest performances in the UFC, but not just for the 38-year-old’s clinical striking display.
Diaz did what no other UFC fighter had done before him: He taunted his opponent while in the heat of battle.
After landing a strike with his open palm – later to be termed ‘The Stockton Slap’ – he followed up with a vicious one-two combination and held his arms aloft before aiming trash talk towards Lawler.
So unusual was this that the referee implored Diaz to stop talking. The fans, however, lapped it up, immediately taking to this scrappy upstart. In his last Octagon appearance before his hiatus, Diaz took to taunting legend Anderson Silva, and even lay on the canvas in a bid to get the Brazilian to engage.
However, Diaz is an enigma and has spoken on his discomfort in undertaking media duties
Diaz’s absence from his UFC 137 press conference infuriated UFC president Dana White
Yet for all his bravado in the Octagon, Diaz is an enigma outside of the cage. Unlike fellow superstars Conor McGregor, Israel Adesanya and Colby Covington, Diaz is unbothered by the gimmicks and the verbal sparring. He’s just here to fight.
In fact, the 38-year-old finds media obligations ‘stressful’ and has previously given interviews where he is clearly nervous about speaking in front of his public.
‘I’m not somebody who is good with words,’ he said. ‘Just the stress of being able to say the right things, that kind of was the price I had to pay. Just doing that sort of thing non stop, I’d rather be out there fighting.’
Diaz’s aversion to public speaking spilled over in 2011 when he refused to fly out for a pre-fight press event ahead of his mega-fight with Georges St-Pierre, infuriating Dana White in the process, who withdrew Diaz and replaced him with Carlos Condit.
It is impossible to discuss Nick Diaz without mention of younger brother Nate Diaz
Nick was involved in a scuffle involving Conor McGregor ahead of UFC 202 in August 2016
‘All I ask the kid to do is just play the game this much,’ White moaned.
It is impossible to discuss Diaz’s soaring popularity without mention of his younger brother, Nate. The pair are a formidable double act and wherever they go, trouble ensues.
In 2015, Nick threw a bottle at former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov at a World Series event, while Nate was seen slapping the Dagestani who appeared to be mocking the younger Diaz brother prior to the altercation.
Diaz also threw a bottle at Khabib Nurmagomedov during a heated altercation in 2015
One year later, Nate walked out of his press conference ahead of his second fight against McGregor with Nick in tow. The event got out of hand when the Diaz brothers and McGregor began launching objects – including bottles – across the media room at one another.
It’s that willingness to fight anyone, anywhere, at any time that has endeared Diaz to the fans. Any fight involving Nick Diaz is a big event, and the fact that the UFC’s top brass have made his comeback fight a five-round bout is a reflection of supporters’ desire to see Diaz on the big stage.
‘I don’t have to take a warm-up fight,’ Diaz said back in 2014. ‘Why would I take a warm-up fight? To help somebody out? To bring them to my level?
‘I’ve already been through all that and you still didn’t see me take an ass whipping. I don’t care, I’m talking about a title fight matchup. Bottom line, I’m the only draw here. Bottom line.’
Diaz is willing to fight anyone, anywhere and told UFC chiefs he wanted to fight Daniel Cormier
It is for these reasons that Diaz is still a huge name in the UFC ahead of his return on Saturday
And Diaz doesn’t just limit his sights to his own division, with the 38-year-old willing to step in with anyone, regardless of obvious disadvantages. This became clear during a conversation between Diaz and Hunter Campbell, the UFC’s Executive Vice President.
‘I asked him, “OK, Nick, what are you thinking?”‘ Campbell recalled via Yahoo Sports. ‘And he tells me, “I want to fight Daniel Cormier.” I’m like, “Nick, you do realize that Daniel Cormier is a heavyweight and you’re a welterweight, don’t you?” And he said, “I know but I’m a f***ing G.” And he was dead serious.’
It has been a long six-and-a-half years but, when all hope appeared to be lost, Diaz is making one final push for UFC glory. Buckle up for the ride.
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