In this edition of Pundit Arena’s ‘Fighter Of The Week’ we’ll be taking a closer look at the man who shook up the world himself, Nathan Diaz.
In last week’s edition of ‘Fighter Of The Week’ we delved into the highly-entertaining and volatile former-Strikeforce champion Nick Diaz as a result of the resurgent rumours surrounding a possible UFC 213 return for a welterweight title showdown with the champ, Tyron Woodley.
And though those rumours are yet to be proven true, his younger brother Nate managed to grab all of the headlines himself in this, the following week, after his highly-entertaining interview with Ariel Helwani on Wednesday’s special edition of the MMA Hour and for that reason, we’re now going to delve into the second of the brothers Diaz and give the former Ultimate Fighter-winner his own moment in the spotlight.
Nate Diaz is the proud owner of one of the UFC’s most lengthy and undoubtedly entertaining fight-careers but even though he has proved his worth on several different occasions, his disillusionment with the UFC has seen his relationship with them deteriorate – possibly beyond all repair – in recent years.
Diaz’s entry into the game of mixed martial arts saw him follow the path laid out for him by his older brother Nick, who had established himself as a force within the sport before Nate’s involvement in the Ultimate Fighter and his subsequent growth in popularity. The influence that the elder-Diaz had and continues to have on Nate just cannot be understated. Their bond goes beyond that of training partners or even friends and for years now, a lot of their strength can be attributed to the deep level of understanding they share.
Nate’s participation on the fifth season of the Ultimate Fighter was his first real taste of the so-called ‘MMA high-life’ as he stormed through the preliminary fights to earn himself the show’s top prize with a win over Manny Gamburyan in the finals.
His now-unmistakeably Diaz-ish attitude was on full-display from the off and over the course of the season’s four fights (including the final) we saw his elite-level Brazilian jiu-jitsu and polished boxing prove to be too much for every single opponent who ended up meeting their maker at his hands.
After his stint on TUF, his next seven bouts saw him claim six post-fight bonuses and slowly begin to carve out his own reputation as one of the lightweight division’s slickest grapplers and though it was his brother, Nick, again, who was grabbing the headlines throughout the middle-portion of Nate’s career, over the years you could see the tremendous growth in his all-round game and his truly-impressive showings against the likes of Donald Cerrone, Rory Markham and Gray Maynard showed that to its fullest.
Losses to Benson Henderson (for the 155lb strap), Josh Thomson and the future champ Rafael dos Anjos closed off what we’ll continue to describe as the ‘middle’ section of Nate’s rise to his current A-list status but for many, the Nate that emerged following his one-year absence after losing to RDA was a Nate now operating much-closer to his constantly-discussed potential.
We all know that the dedication and work-ethic of the Diaz-brothers is near-legendary at this stage. The fact that these cardio-machines run marathons in their off-time is a testament to their fierce and unyielding devotion and when Nate Diaz stepped into the octagon after a year on the sidelines to face Michael Johnson on December the 19th of 2015, we saw a Nate who was finally ready to fulfil his long-awaited potential, a Nate who was motivated to reach out and grab what he felt for years to be rightfully his and a Nate whose new-found drive stemmed from watching the rise his soon-to-be great-rival, Conor McGregor.
Diaz’s dissatisfaction with his treatment by the UFC is well-documented at this stage but in the rise of the Irishman Conor McGregor, Nate saw only a great injustice to his own road to the top. This outspoken, brash, rebellious loudmouth was accelerating to the top of the MMA world faster than perhaps anyone before him and the UFC, of course seeing a potential cash-cow in the making, made every attempt to push Conor towards his inevitable superstardom.
From Nate’s perspective, how could he not take issue with all of this? His infamous ‘you’ve taken everything I worked for’ speech, was not a simple call for attention, it was a genuine show of disgust at how he himself felt about his standing within the UFC.
Even his self-imposed hiatus of late has backed up this notion and from what he has been saying, it seems as though he is in absolutely no rush to give the fans the fight they want to see but if history stands as any indicator, if Nate does in fact fight again, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an even greater version of him emerge. His work-ethic is simply astounding and the fighter who faced off against Rafael dos Anjos is 2014 just simply was not in the same league as the one who skillfully outpointed Michael Johnson in the following year.
His infamous pair of fights with Conor McGregor may well define his career but I genuinely believe that this relatively young lightweight still has a lot to give. The one question that remains is whether or not circumstances will allow us to see him do just that.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena