Everyone says they’d never sell out. Everyone probably means it, too. Yet in the end almost everyone does. We bend to the will of the machine. We chase a quick buck. We compromise. It’s human nature.
Nate Diaz is many things — including being admittedly rough around the edges.
He’s still the fighter, after all, who, after defeating Conor McGregor in the biggest win of his career, declared, “I’m not surprised mother[expletive].” And the one who choked out Kurt Pellegrino with a triangle while flipping the world two middle fingers in an act of celebration or defiance or who the hell knows what he was doing.
It’s part of what makes him popular. Or not.
“I’m not a very likable looking person,” Diaz once said. “You want to tell your mom, ‘This is my favorite guy here?’ ”
Yet love him or loathe him, cheer for him or hope Anthony Pettis delivers a beatdown Saturday at UFC 241 in Anaheim, California, there is one unusual truth to Nate Diaz: he won’t sell out. He just won’t. At least not anymore.
Diaz is, if nothing else, his own man, an American Original that is just as content training in his hometown of Stockton, California, as he is standing in the spotlight on a pay-per-view.
Now 34, he hasn’t fought in three years. That was August 2016 when McGregor won a narrow decision in their rematch. In all that time, Diaz either didn’t like the fights the UFC was offering, didn’t like the money they were offering, or had the other guy bail out on him.
Whatever. He figured the fight he wanted at the terms he wanted would come. It’s his career. It’s his life. He’s been in this since he was 19.
It’s not that he’s difficult, although he can be. Mostly he just isn’t going to do anything he doesn’t want to do, even if that stalls out his career just as it hits peak earning power. He left millions on the table, but they’re his millions.
“I just wanted to be positive, make sure I was moving forward, not just the same old, same old,” Diaz said. “I just wanted to do better. When [the UFC] come at me with [expletive] that ain’t better, then I am good. I feel like I am the A side of all these fights. I felt I should have a little say in it.”
So he sat. Well, not really. He continued to train for triathlons. He and his older brother, Nick, started a CBD company, Game Up Nutrition. He surrounded himself with family and friends in Stockton. He continued to build up the gym Nick founded there. Yet even that is a no sell-out operation.
The Nick Diaz Academy sits in a nondescript building on a busy street in North Stockton. It’s perfect for what it’s designed to do, teach jiujitsu, among other fighting disciplines. It’s hardly glamorous for two of the most famous MMA fighters in the world, though.
Investors have come seeking to franchise the academies out and trade off that Diaz name. Nick and Nate aren’t going for it, at least not yet. Right now is about building up their team of guys until everyone is a black belt and properly schooled on how to teach how they were taught — in the Gracie discipline.
“I can’t just have gyms everywhere,” Nate said. “When I have time to jump in and train at these places, then that’s when it’ll be like that. But right now, it’s just one. Right now it’s about creating the core, creating a super core team and then branch out later. By then, we’ll have 10 black belts working, training, doing the same [expletive] at each place. Then I’ll have people to run those gyms.
“Complete quality,” he continued. “[Expletive] quantity. All the way quality.”
Quantity would have been more lucrative.
“That’s where I come from, a Gracie jiujitsu background and every Gracie school that I’ve been at, the affiliates are the most hardcore gyms I’ve been at and they stay that way,” Diaz said. “And I want to continue that and keep the show rolling like that. You’ve got to have the same formula. It’s the same thing. It’s not, ‘OK, you put the name in but it’s not the same.’ ”
This is what he cares about. Authenticity. He got rich and famous and could’ve moved to L.A. Or Tahoe. Or wherever. He stayed in Stockton.
“Everywhere else is fun to go see, but after a minute you have to go back to the base, back to the core,” Diaz said. “That’s where I feel like, if I am not there holding it down, I feel like something isn’t right. That’s what it’s all about.”
The UFC world would have to wait until he found the kind of opponent and situation that interested him.
He had a chance to fight Georges St. Pierre in a four-man tournament, but he wanted one of the other proposed participants instead, either McGregor or lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
A Tyrone Woodley fight was offered on short notice but the money wasn’t right, considering the lack of prep time. Dustin Poirier canceled on a fight, only to wind up with a title shot vs. Nurmagomedov.
Diaz just shrugs. He didn’t stress over any of it. The fight with Pettis appealed to him. So he’s back. It’s that simple.
The truth is Nate Diaz made millions but has never needed millions. If you can make money without money changing you, you become a very powerful person.
“I come from a place with no money and you give me too much money,” Diaz said back in 2016. “I don’t give a [expletive] about making more. I am doing better than I was ever supposed to do.”
Those were words. Three years of inaction proved he meant it. He always means it though. He does what he says.
“I believe I just have a moral about doing what I say, that other people don’t have,” he said. “And when I see that they don’t have that moral, it’s weak. Right?”
“I think the genuine [expletive] is the best sell anyway,” Diaz said.
Always. Always with Nate Diaz.
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