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“I Won That S**t” : Understanding The Battle Mentality Of The Diaz Brothers

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 5: Nate Diaz celebrates after defeating Conor McGregor during UFC 196 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 5, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

We take a look at what makes the Diaz brothers tick.

War. It’s as much a part of the history of humanity as anything you could ever possibly think of. As deplorable and regrettable as it might be, for thousands of years people have fought amongst themselves for their land, for their wealth, for their honour and even just to satisfy that undeniable craving that has always been – and will continue to be – a mainstay in the human condition that has been with us from our earliest days right up until now.

And though, in the modern day, war is still as prevalent as it has ever been, we now see more commercialised and structured ways for the warriors within our society to vent their lust for action. Just like the gladiators of old, in present-day combat sports, we have a select number of men and women who perhaps – had they been born in a different time or place – would be the very ones leading the charge on a soon-to-be-bloodied battlefield, with both sword and shield in hand as they prepare to express themselves in their rawest form.

Though many fighters in the UFC fit these criteria, there are few who would argue that the classical notion of the ‘warrior’s spirit’ is embodied – perhaps more than anyone – by the brothers Diaz, Nick and Nate.

The Diaz brothers are two boxing and jiu-jitsu aficionados born and raised in Stockton, California. Between them, they’ve had 68 mixed martial arts matchups, with 38 of them taking place in the UFC, facing some of the very best the modern-era of MMA has had to offer.

LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 31: Nick Diaz (L) and Anderson Silva trade punches in their middleweight bout during UFC 183 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on January 31, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Silva won by unanimous decision. (Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)

Both fighters, though slightly different in their approach to MMA, possess pretty much the same core set of attributes. Both men stand at about 6 foot tall, hold a 76-inch reach and a wide stance in the stand-up that only adds to their length inside the octagon. Years of working with Richard Perez have seen them mould their conventional boxing into some of the most polished and clinical in the organisation’s history, while their long involvement with Cesar Gracie jiu-jitsu has propelled their skills on the mat to some of the most active, dynamic and highly threatening in each of their respective divisions.

Their main tool, however – from a physical standpoint – is most certainly their seemingly endless gas-tank, which has been honed to a near-perfect level for the sport after years of consistent marathoning and endurance training. Nick, speaking once in an interview with the Huffington Post just prior to his UFC 143 tussle with Carlos Condit, gave us an insight into the mental edge that having such impressive cardio can give you in MMA.

“Fighters are afraid of conditioning,” he said. “They are afraid of getting tired, but I don’t want to have anxiety or be afraid of anything. I can go 100 percent out there and never have to worry about getting tired. Everybody says fighting is 90 percent mental, and it’s true. Knowing you can go 15 minutes or 25 minutes without any problem can help you sustain that mental advantage over your opponent.”

LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 31: Nick Diaz leaves the arena after losing to Anderson Silva in a middleweight bout during UFC 183 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on January 31, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Silva won by unanimous decision. (Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)

In an excellent piece, written by MMAFighting’s Shaun Al-Shatti entitled ‘Heart Of The 209‘, the respected MMA-writer reached out to several high-profile MMA combatants who had faced the younger Diaz, Nate over the course of their career and basically asked for their insight into what exactly separated their respective bouts with Nate from any of the other opponents they had faced over the course of their careers.

The general consensus among the group seemed to involve recalling a sense of in-octagon bemusement over the constant pressure applied by Nate no matter how much damage he appeared to be taking. It’s a fascinating piece and does an excellent job of illustrating exactly how difficult it is to deter either one of the Diaz brothers no matter how hard you may try to.

The fact that neither Diaz has been finished in the last 10 years as a result of their insane toughness and elite conditioning has led them to take a somewhat stubborn view on the decision losses they have fallen to in their time in pro-MMA.

So why exactly is it that both of them seem to come away from a large portion of their losses firmly believing that they had in fact done enough to earn the victory?

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 5: Conor McGregor punches Nate Diaz during UFC 196 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 5, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

Well, if you step into the shoes of a Diaz brother for a moment then it’s a bit easier to understand. Each man was raised in an area where fighting was just a part of growing up, with Nick constantly calling back to his days in school where – after learning the martial arts from a young age – he began to live life without the fear for his own safety that would have perhaps inhibited his growth into the person he is today.

In a street fight, there are no judges scoring the contest at octagon-side, there’s no ref to force a standup at an appropriate time and when all is said and done, there’s no numerical record left to tell you how successful your career has been.

Nick and Nate Diaz – in tying with my earlier point about true warriors – seem to be in it for the glory of combat. MMA is a sport with restrictions, the results of which managed by many who reside outside of the two athletes battling it out, but in the Diaz world, the art of combat is intimate and regardless of whose hand is raised, no scorecard can tell them they didn’t win a fight if they felt that they walked out of that octagon having fought a better fight than their opponent.

A popular and strong example of this in motion is Nate’s now-legendary UFC 202 battle with the UFC’s then-featherweight champion, Conor McGregor.

LAS VEGAS, NV - AUGUST 20: Nate Diaz eyes Conor McGregor from across the Octagon before their welterweight rematch at the UFC 202 event at T-Mobile Arena on August 20, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. McGregor won by majority decision. (Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)

Now, 90% of MMA-fans who watch that fight without bias will tell you that Conor won rounds 1, 2 and 4 while Nate took home the 3rd and 5th but at the very moment that fight was broken up by the 25th minute, Diaz had taken McGregor down, was postured up, and was in a dominant position.

From Nate’s perspective, regardless of rounds, judges’ scores, or 10-9’s, 10-8’s or whatever, he had to answer the call of the bell, walk away from the grounded McGregor and concede defeat to the man who – in his world – was in a bad position at the end of the fight, something that trumped the scoring of rounds and all the technicalities that come with participation in MMA.

I’m not saying Nate and Nick are right to think like this, I mean, MMA is a sport for a reason. The rules are what separates it from the more ‘barbaric’ nature of unsanctioned street combat but still, it does have to be respected and admired that there are still those who look past all of that and just see the man standing across from them when the cage doors close.

PHOENIX, AZ - DECEMBER 13: Nate Diaz exits the octagon following his loss by unanimous decision to Rafael dos Anjos (not pictured) in their heavyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at the at U.S. Airways Center on December 13, 2014 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Indeed there have been excuses aplenty from both men over the years and at times their inability to accept defeat may put people off, but the thing is, in the Diaz brothers, we have two very unique personalities in the sport. They entertain us with their antics both inside and outside of the octagon and love them or hate them, you cannot deny that they are genuine and the way they handle their losses is just symbolic of the type of fighters and the type of men that they are.

They both have a very strange way of projecting their devotion to this life and in my opinion, if you appreciate their refreshing no-bullshit attitude towards everything in the MMA status quo, then their typically Diaz-ish response to their losses is just something you have to accept as part-and-parcel of what makes these two such an entertaining pair of men to experience in the public eye.

Long live the brothers Diaz!

Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena

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Author: Cillian Cunningham

Lead mixed martial arts writer who can be contacted at cillian@punditarena.com.