I’ve talked about it before: The UFC’s need for a true villain.
For a sport predicated on story lines, the search goes far and wide. Brazil, Australia, Ireland or America. Frequent-flyer miles are in full effect. In Dana White’s utopia, each weight class has its own villainous gatekeeper complete with highlight-reel KO capabilities and IG caption-worthy comments.
In reality, most weight classes in the UFC are void of this attraction. Also in reality, the 170-pound Welterweight division has 4 of them. Interestingly enough, 0/4 are the current or most recent title holders. Be that as it may.
You have the irritatingly-witty Ben Askren. You have Street Jesus himself, reincarnated as the man who wouldn’t hesitate to slap wine and organic crackers out of your hands in a Whole Foods, Jorge Masvidal. Then you have the MAGA-hat sporting Colby Covington. That ones easy. Last, you have a man who may be better categorized as an antihero to anyone not named Dana White. The fan-favorite iconoclast: Nate Diaz.
But this isn’t about the UFC’s favorite villain. That belongs to Colby Covington. This is about the truth-teller that the UFC didn’t even know it needed.
WARNING: EXPLICIT CONTENT TO FOLLOW.
Nate Fucking Diaz. Part of the “Nick Diaz Army”, motherfuckers. It seems fitting to add that term to any sentence that references Nate. The self-appointed “Baddest Motherfucker in The Game” belt-holder unanimously defeated another fan-favorite in Anthony Pettis, in his home state of California at UFC 241, after a 3-year layoff.
Nate Diaz continues to, ironically, blow the smoke and mirrors right off the fight game. The same smoke and mirrors that the UFC exhaustingly tries to implement, and essentially the same smoke that got his brother banned for 5-years.
Sell fights through manufactured beef? Provide soundbites through forced media obligations? Refrain from cursing or middle finger pointing? Abstain from marijuana (or CBD) consumption in the public eye?
You might as well be speaking Don Vito.
These all seem to be on the “checklist” for fighters to earn PPV buys, media coverage, and the good graces of UFC brass. The types of things that allow Dana White to acknowledge you as a “needle mover”, which Dana hilariously stated Nate was not.
Diaz doesn’t abide by the unwritten rules of fight promotion. The dude abides by a code of conduct that only he and his crew fully understand. They do things their way, on their terms. If this means no action inside the Octagon for 3 years – so be it. But it also means they retain the power. There is a leverage that the UFC holds over virtually any fighter in the game – but it’s a leverage the Diaz brothers irritatingly snatch back from the promotion, like a gold chain hanging off your neck, time and time again.
The same leverage that Diaz has used to book his own fights; first to get to Pettis, now to get to Masvidal.
Gangster vs. West Coast Gangster. I love it.
The “realness” in Diaz pushes itself to the forefront in ways that most of us just don’t understand. He can’t get out of his own way – so he simply makes his own way. Mean-mugging, mumbling, and Stockton-slapping himself down a road seldom traveled. It’s an approach many of us only have the balls to take in video games, where consequences don’t apply.
And throughout all of that, he is uncomfortably honest with his opinions in a time where most hide those thoughts behind emojis and avatars. So while the majority of parents would see him smoking a blunt on stage at open workouts, and immediately cover their children’s eyes in search of another role model… any other role model… the fact of the matter is he is as true to himself as any human could possibly hope to be, and throws a fat middle finger to anyone and anything he sees as fake.
If you’re looking for someone to be a beacon in the fight game, it might just be Nate Fucking Diaz.