NEW YORK — Stitches ringing his right eye, the taste of blood and bitterness still in his mouth and the clock clicking toward 3 a.m., Nate Diaz showed up Sunday morning at the post-UFC 244 press conference.
His fight with Jorge Masvidal had been stopped just before the fourth round when the cageside doctor deemed Diaz unable to continue due to the aforementioned cut.
Now Diaz was talking — not a preferred activity — in an effort to fight for his future while reminding everyone why he remains, even in defeat, one of the most popular and biggest draws in the sport.
He was asked, for example, about how the fight for the “Baddest Mother[Expletive]” belt — his with Jorge Masvidal — ended not with a stoppage but a doctor’s opinion.
“There is irony in this,” the reporter said.
Diaz looked a little puzzled. He dropped out of Tokay High School in Lodi, California, as a sophomore, his legacy there built on after-school fights and the time he was so disruptive he even got thrown out of driver’s ed.
“Zach come here real quick,” Diaz said, calling over team member Zach Rosenfield.
Diaz then pretended to whisper in Rosenfield’s ear, only to speak loudly in an effort to play up for the room and poke fun of himself.
“What do irony mean?” Diaz asked.
Everyone laughed. After a proper explanation, he returned to his seat and turned to the reporter.
“Like you were saying … ”
Even in defeat, Diaz remains hysterical, one of the reasons he is a huge pay-per-view draw despite a now 20-12 record and a recent three-year layoff. The other reason? He delivers action, all-out, blood-and-guts brawls that make the consumer know they are going to get their money’s worth.
Case in point: Diaz won’t fight wrestlers because he says they make for boring bouts.
“I’m only fighting killers so we can have a real fight,” Diaz said.
He won’t fight easy opponents because what’s the point other than money, which he doesn’t seem to care about.
“Don’t tell me I have to fight Joe Blow over here, because I don’t want to hear that,” Diaz said.
It is why he was so adamant in arguing he deserved a rematch with Masvidal. Yes, the Miami welterweight had split him open and dominated the first three rounds (he led on all three scorecards, two of them 30-26). But the fight didn’t end. He took a beating and was still ready for more.
“He’s a [expletive] dog,” Masvidal said. “Those same shots, I’ve hit a lot of people, they fold like a lawn chair. You’ve literally got to kill that guy.”
So come kill him, Diaz was saying. There is a strong chance Masvidal would have done just that had the fight continued, but it didn’t. And Diaz is often best in late-round surges, where his world-class cardio training kicks in. It’s like a baseball game that got called due to rain in the seventh inning.
“If you’re the baddest mother[expletive], you going to take that win?” Diaz said. “It was a win, it was fair game but I wasn’t finished, he knows I wasn’t finished, I was ready to rock.”
A rematch makes sense. Masvidal said as much, if only because there is another big pay-per-view buy for it.
“I’m in it for the money,” Masvidal said. “He’s a money fight.”
Seems simple. It might not be. UFC president Dana White didn’t like the idea in the moments after the fight, although that can certainly change. He thought Masvidal might have other options. For Diaz, he didn’t have anything set.
And with that, Diaz was concerned enough that his newfound run of success with the UFC might be on the brink.
“I can already see the [expletive]ery coming, that’s the way this game works,” Daiz said. “I give all the rematches and make names for all these people, I believe I was responsible for all this [expletive].”
Indeed, the BMF belt was Diaz’s idea. So was a fight with Masvidal, who he called out after his August victory over Anthony Pettis. The UFC has lots of actual title holders, but few can headline a Madison Square Garden show like Diaz, who, in turn, helped drag Masvidal into stardom.
Now Diaz wants his rematch with Masvidal. Or at least a long-awaited one with Conor McGregor, the end of the trilogy (Diaz took the first by submission and immediately granted a rematch to McGregor who took a close decision in the second fight).
Mainly, he doesn’t want to get left behind, yet he fears he might, handed lesser opponents and wasting time. There are three big dogs in the UFC, and they should go in circles fighting each other for big money and big nights like this.
“That’s what I hope happens here,” Diaz said. “I hope everyone gets on the same page and we work together otherwise there might be a [expletive]-ery three year off for me. I can already see it coming.”
“Dana White, ‘I don’t know about that,’” Diaz said, mimicking the UFC president. “That’s how it start. My plan is to tell them all, ‘[expletive] you.’ And then hopefully we all get along soon. Let’s get back at it. That’s my plan.”
Diaz, 34, has earned that much. He’s an old-school original in a sport with too many calculated plans and company men. He can’t be controlled, which is no doubt the UFC’s concern, but also the UFC’s problem. He shouldn't have to prove anything to anyone anymore.
The fans like to watch him fight. The fans like to watch him promote. The fans just like him, win or lose. He’s entertainingly ridiculous.
Diaz needs time to heal up, but by next summer? Do they get him another crack at Masvidal? Do they get him McGregor, at last?
Or do we get another prolonged stand-off, offers of unappealing fights and no one making a move?
Nate Diaz isn’t going to back down, even if it wastes his prime as a fighter. He wants what he wants and he isn’t afraid to say it … with or without irony.
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