Nick Diaz has not lost a welterweight fight in nearly six years. | Photo: Sherdog.com
Few figures in MMA are as intriguing as the favorite son of Stockton, Calif., Nick Diaz. Inside the Octagon, his fighting style is as crowd-pleasing as they come. Armed with exceptional heart and courage, he pushes forward and tries to finish from the moment a fight starts until the moment it ends. It has led to some wild and unpredictable wars.
Outside the Octagon, Diaz has been no stranger to controversy. He has gotten into trouble with promoters, athletic commissions and other fighters, and the sense that he could do anything at any time only enhances his appeal. As his longtime trainer, Cesar Gracie, put it succinctly: “You can’t out-crazy Nick Diaz.”
As Diaz fights Carlos Condit for the interim welterweight title at UFC 143 this Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, he finds himself on the cusp of superstardom. UFC “Primetime” has shined a spotlight on his unique career and personality, introducing him to a new base of fans. A fight with Georges St. Pierre, should Diaz get past Condit, would take him to an even higher level.
If Diaz does become one of the UFC’s top stars, it will be a wild ride. Like former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson, Diaz is simultaneously uniquely suited for fame and uniquely unsuited for dealing with the trappings of it. This is an entertaining but dangerous combination. Already, it has produced no shortage of wild events. These are 10 crazy moments from Diaz’s MMA career.
UFC 47 “It’s On”
April 2, 2004 -- Las Vegas
When Diaz, at the age of 20, entered the Octagon for the second time, he was known as a jiu-jitsu specialist. His fight against Robbie Lawler was thought to be a classic striker-versus-grappler matchup, so it came as a shock to many when Diaz stood and traded toe-to-toe with the slugger. The result of their battle would come as even more of a surprise.
With pinpoint punches, Diaz got the better of early exchanges with Lawler. Then, he began to taunt. Lifting his hands up in the air and daring Lawler to punch him, Diaz showed no fear and gave no hint of backing off. It seemed like a suicidal strategy against one of the most powerful punchers in the weight class, but when Diaz landed a looping right hand to the jaw, Lawler collapsed face first to the canvas, and the fight was called.
Diaz had delivered one of the most memorable UFC performances of the year. A “jiu-jitsu fighter” had stood, taunted and knocked out one of the welterweight division’s most feared strikers. Everything about the contest was startling, and Diaz had demonstrated the approach to fighting that would eventually make him a champion and star.
“The Ultimate Fighter 2” Finale
Nov. 5, 2005 -- Las Vegas
When the UFC showcased and made into stars a number of young fighters on “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series, some prominent veterans expressed resentment at perceived preferential treatment. Few expressed their aggravation as loudly as Diaz did in the lead-up to his fight with Diego Sanchez. Diaz and Sanchez waged a war of words and even exchanged adversarial emails prior to the bout at “The Ultimate Fighter 2” Finale.
The tumult did not end when fight night arrived. The match between Sanchez and Diaz took place at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, a small venue in Las Vegas in which fighters wind up in close proximity. This led to Diaz famously hurling a shoe at Sanchez backstage as they were waiting to come out for their fight. Unfortunately for him, the gesture would not secure Diaz the win. Diaz landed more total strikes than Sanchez, but “The Dream” connected with more significant strikes and received a unanimous decision with 30-27 scores.
UFC 57 “Liddell vs. Couture 3”
Feb. 4, 2006 -- Las Vegas
When Diaz fought Joe Riggs at UFC 57, it was just another competition, and it fit a pattern of Diaz fights at the time. He outstruck Riggs by nearly a 2-to-1 margin and was more active working for submissions on the ground, but Riggs won the judges’ decision on the basis of takedowns. The fight did not stand out on a night when Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell completed their classic trilogy.
What happened after the fight ended was a completely different story. Diaz and Riggs were sent to the same hospital. Big mistake. Diaz began jawing with Riggs inside the hospital, even as Riggs was being fed fluids through an IV in his arm.
Words quickly escalated, and Diaz threw the first punch. A wild brawl broke out in the hospital room, as the two adversaries had to be separated by police officers. The fight was untelevised, but hospital attendants and nurses got free front row seats.
Diaz later explained why he fought with Riggs in the hospital to MMA Weekly Radio.
“I ain’t no bitch,” he said. “You know what I mean? That’s why I said I’ll fight him all night. I’d fight him right now. If he were here, I’d fight him right now.”
Pride 33 “Second Coming”
Feb. 24, 2007 -- Las Vegas
Pride 33 was dubbed “Second Coming” for obvious reasons, as it was the sophomore American show for Japan’s Pride Fighting Championships promotion. However, it could just as easily have been a description of Diaz’s performance at the event. Diaz burst on the scene in the Ultimate Fighting Championship with his wins over Jeremy Jackson and Lawler but went on to drop a series of decisions. When Pride signed him to fight its lightweight champion, Takanori Gomi, at Pride 33, Diaz was viewed as just another opponent. He had dropped three of his past six fights and entered the ring as a heavy betting underdog.
If Gomi did not take Diaz seriously as an opponent, it was an enormous mistake. The fight turned into a brawl quickly, with Diaz taunting and throwing up his hands even more wildly than he did against Lawler. As the two fighters traded power punches, the crowd exploded with enthusiasm. Gomi connected with much harder blows but Diaz answered with volume punches, and the Japanese star eventually wilted under the pressure.
In the second round, an exhausted Gomi finally took the fight to the ground. Diaz immediately locked in the exotic gogoplata submission and coaxed the tapout. It was the crowning victory of Diaz’s career, full of drama and capped by a spectacular finish -- until his drug test results were in. Diaz tested positive for a high amount of marijuana, and the Nevada State Athletic Commission later elected to switch the result of the bout to a no contest. The decision was widely criticized, with many arguing that marijuana simply was not a performance-enhancing drug. Still, the failed drug test only added to the intrigue surrounding one of the most talked about fights of 2007.
EliteXC “Return of the King”
June 14, 2008 -- Honolulu
One Diaz brother is difficult enough to handle. Dealing with two is an even trickier proposition. After K.J. Noons defeated Yves Edwards to retain his EliteXC lightweight title in his birthplace of Hawaii, Diaz was brought into the cage as the next challenger for Noons’ championship. Noons had with him his father, a former professional kickboxer. Diaz had with him his younger brother, “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 5 winner Nate Diaz. With former professional wrestler Bill Goldberg conducting the post-fight interview, a tag team brawl broke out: the Diaz brother duo against the father and son Noons tandem.
Tag teams are not particularly well suited for legitimate competition, but it made for an entertaining spectacle in Hawaii. After Noons’ father charged the Diaz brothers, Nick and Nate were escorted from the cage. They left receiving a negative reaction from the Hawaiian crowd. They proceeded to give the Noonses the finger and then flashed their middle fingers at the crowd for good measure.
UFC color commentator Mike Goldberg would not have labeled the display classy, but it was prototypical Diaz.
Continue Reading » Diaz has never much cared for doing press, and his discomfort with doing interviews often becomes painfully obvious.