THE PEOPLES CHAMP
We sit with UFC superstar Nate Diaz and talk about growing up in the 209, his brother’s unjustifiable suspension and how a certain Irishman took a page out of his playbook.
Words by: Richard Coyle
Snaps by: Cindy Galindo & Richard Coyle
Deep rooted in the streets of Stockton, California the future looked bleak especially considering that it logs in annually as one of the cities with the highest crime rates in the US. Meet Nate Diaz one-half of the infamous Diaz Brothers who have dominated the mixed martial arts promotion UFC for the better half of a decade in violent fashion. Fortunately, Nate didn’t fall victim to his surroundings and found solace in both the boxing ring and octagon versus gang violence and hustling corner blocks like many of his friends. Opting to follow his brother Nick’s footsteps, Nate started training in MMA at the age of 14 and quickly realized this was something he was good at. His passion for the sport led him to compete in MMA promotions WEC, Strikeforce, and Pancrase in Japan and ended up winning The Ultimate Fighter Season 5. With some of the fiercest and staunchest supporters, the Diaz brothers ended up becoming the UFC’s biggest draws before newcomers Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor. With both brothers rapidly ascending to superstardom, something outrageous happened. In 2015, Nick Diaz was suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission 5 years for his failed drug test at UFC 183 for testing positive for marijuana after fighting Anderson Silva who happened to test positive for performance-enhancing drugs and only received a 1-year suspension. With this appalling judgment handed down by the NSAC, Nate is currently tasked with holding down the fort for his brother and he’s doing just that emphatically. His last win against Michael Johnson after a little over a year hiatus garnered him “Fight of the night” honors was a brilliant showcase of Nate’s skillset as a complete fighter. It was also highlighted with an expletive-laden tirade aimed towards newly minted featherweight champ Conor McGregor during his interview with Joe Rogan right after the fight. Like Nate said in his post-fight interview, “We can do this shit tonight. Whenever. Next week..” Some people might consider this typical Diaz bravado and arrogance as a lack of respect for their opponents but the thing that people fail to realize is this isn’t staged, this is how they really feel. Nate is not one to mince his words. Hopefully, the UFC makes this happen because there’s really no other fight that would generate the type of buildup and competitive flare that a McGregor vs. Diaz main event would generate. Nate might not be the best brand ambassador complete with pull quotes and witty catchphrases required to be a UFC poster child, but make no mistake he means what he says, and says what he means. People need to remember that Nate is a fighter from the hood. He’s keeping it 100% and has no intention of swapping out a RepHard tee for an Ermenegildo Zegna Bespoke. Fighting is what he’s good at. Extremely good at. He’s not in the fight game to test his skills or be in the limelight. He’s in it to win it. His partial hiatus in 2014 was attributed to the lack of competition and meaningful fights. He does not want to be an MMA journeyman or a paycheck-to-paycheck fighter. Everybody knows that the career of a combat fighter can be short-lived due to the violent nature of the sport and Nate isn’t trying to be a statistic or casualty of his craft. The Diaz brothers are definitely the most polarizing fighters the promotion has seen due to their oftentimes lackadaisical attitudes and unwillingness to conform to being company men. For that same reason, they are loved as well. Don’t let those optics fool you, they take their work very seriously. When Nate isn’t training for his next fight, he’s running a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academy with his brother Nick in Lodi, California. We sit with Nate Diaz and find out how this kid from the 209 overcame being a product of his environment and how he plans on demolishing the competition ahead in the UFC.
What was it like growing up in Stockton, California?
Growing up in Stockton was alright. It’s a small town so you get to see a lot of the same people you grew up with, good and bad. Like many people from small towns that found success, why did you decide to stay? It’s where I’m from. My friends are here, my family, my gym. Don’t get me wrong, I like to get the hell out and travel when I can, but I always come back to recoup. This is where home is.
What was it like to get back into the octagon after a year hiatus?
It felt good to get the win and back on track. I just had to sit back and see what was going on. I was waiting for something to happen so I had a reason to fight again. I don’t want to fight for the sake of fighting. I wanted good fights and a reason to do so. I was waiting for the momentum build up.
Do you think there’s a double standard in the UFC when it comes to you and Conor McGregor?
I do. This guy comes in and does what I’ve been doing for my whole career and now he’s something special. I feel like he’s been watching my brother and me over the years and doing the exact same thing. The difference is that the UFC is pushing and marketing that and people think it’s great. I can’t hate on him though. There are a lot of people hating on him right now but he’s doing a good job. I recognize that and can’t take anything away from him. He just peeped game and pushed it. I feel like everything I’ve done and worked for, he’s done the same exact thing and has all the success. Now, that’s a good reason for me to fight.
What are your thoughts on your brother’s suspension?
It’s ridiculous. I mean you’re taking his livelihood and career from him. It’s high-level bullying. I’m glad the NSAC realized their wrongdoing and reduced his sentence. It’s just been great to see all the support and backup he’s received. Even Cher stuck up for him! (laughs)
Do you think cannabis will ever be legal in combat sports?
It should be. It’s the fight life and they should encourage it for the wellness of the fighters. You train all day. It’s a 24 hour a day job. They already take your food and water to make weight. They should absolutely legalize it. What’s the alternative? Drug yourself with all types of medication? It’s the perfect thing for all athletes.
Do you consider cannabis a performance enhancing drug?
Its performance enhancing because it makes your quality of life better in my opinion. It enhances everything you do. You can train harder as well. but not like taking steroids in the physical sense. For instance, If you’re a lazy fuck, you’ll be passed out eating chips and cookies. If I know that I gotta run or train for an event and I’m feeling lazy, I’ll toke up and get right to it. I know I’m gonna do the run regardless, but if I gotta do it, I might as well be lifted. I support the movement 100%
Thanks for the interview. Any last words?
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