We’ve seen athletes cry. We’ve seen them beg to be believed. We’ve seen them sue and bully and scream to the heavens. We’ve seen them raise their right hand and swear they were clean … on their god, on their parent’s name, on their children’s life.
When it comes to positive tests for performance enhancing drugs, we’ve seen nearly everyone claim they were innocent only to be proven guilty.
Which is why, in the name of Lance Armstrong, no one believes anyone anymore.
Except, apparently, Nate Diaz.
Everyone believed him.
Last Thursday, Diaz revealed on social media that he had tested positive for elevated levels of a banned substance, in this case something called LGD4033. He said it was some kind of lie and he wouldn’t fight until USADA and the UFC cleared him. He swore all he took were vegan vitamins.
And everyone, or nearly everyone, believed him.
Jorge Masvidal, his opponent for Saturday’s Madison Square Garden main event at UFC 244, sure did. Masvidal said he’d fight Diaz no matter what the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) was saying.
“I never thought Nate was a cheater,” Masvidal said on Monday.
UFC President Dana White believed him. White said he never for a moment believed Diaz was doping and the reason the UFC hadn’t announced anything was it was trying to get to the bottom of things.
“I one hundred percent knew Nate wasn’t taking anything to cheat,” White wrote on Twitter.
Most fans got behind Diaz. Same with other fighters, media and sponsors. It didn’t seem real. It turned out it wasn’t.
After shipping USADA all of his supplements, it was determined Diaz had tested for a slightly elevated amount of LGD4033 due to an organic, plant-based multivitamin he was taking. The devout vegan was vindicated.
“I think it was a bunch of [expletive],” Diaz said Monday.
Diaz’s credibility comes from his relentless, if unconventional, commitment to purity and honesty. He’s no choir boy. Far from it. He’s a rough and tumble, anti-establishment brawler from Stockton, California, who, when not beating people up, counts training, triathlons and marijuana as his hobbies.
He’s real though. Completely and unapologetically real. Everything with him is about honor, and that especially includes the purity of fighting.
Which is why when he said he was told to keep the test results quiet (he wouldn’t say who told him that) while further testing was done, he refused. If he had, everything would have been cleared up in private and the public would have never known.
He didn’t care. He wasn’t going to be involved in anything he thought might even look dishonest. And he wasn’t going to allow anyone — certainly not the UFC — to have leverage over him.
“I didn’t want to be a part of a big secret,” Diaz said. “People on steroids don’t talk about steroids out loud. If we are going to be about the point, let’s get down to the point … Why is it a secret if it’s not true? You know what I am saying. The keeping-it-a-secret [expletive] is just so people make money. It’s cheating. I’m not going to be a part of that.”
That’s precisely why people believe him. He cares about everything that matters to him — dignity, fairness, reputation — and doesn’t care about anything that doesn’t, most notably money. It’s why he stepped away from the Octagon for three years, leaving millions on the table.
At the time, he didn’t like how he perceived the UFC was treating him after he lost a close majority decision in a rematch against Conor McGregor. They wanted him, he said, to “fight your way back up.”
He saw the decision as unjust and thus wouldn’t play that game.
“No,” he said, “I’m still at the top.”
He refused to take fights against fighters that didn’t interest him, even though they were lucrative.
And rather than care about any UFC titles, Diaz essentially created his own, the “Baddest Mother[expletive] Belt” and challenged Masvidal, who he does respect, to it. The UFC went along and the “BMF” belt will be handed out Saturday.
A fighter who doesn’t care about a championship belt? That’s Diaz.
“Everyone wants the BMF title,” Diaz reasoned.
He’s probably right about that.
He still thinks the entire drug test deal was part of some plot to keep him down. This is unfounded. He offers no proof. It doesn’t even make sense. USADA has been embroiled in controversies, but not of planting positive results to alter fight cards. And the UFC accepts USADA results and stood to lose huge sums having one of its most bankable stars back out of a huge New York show.
Diaz is undeterred by reason.
“They can’t have a real mother[expletive] like me,” he said. “They need some leverage over me to keep me from being the king of the thing.”
Always stating what he truly thinks, even if it makes no sense, just bolsters the trust people have in him. There is nothing to hide with Diaz. Ever. On any and every subject, he’s true to himself.
So when some PED scandal bubbled up, he just laughed and pulled the curtain back and did what no one — from hurdlers to home run hitters — could.
He got everyone to believe him.
Then got proven right.
That’s one BMF.
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