Hispanic Heritage Month: Nick Diaz Returns To MMA

Screen Shot from UFC 266 weigh ins

Before Conor McGregor became the biggest bad guy in mixed martial arts history, there was Nick Diaz. This weekend MMA’s first millennial heel returns to the cage after a six-year absence.

He is rematching former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler, who he beat 17 years ago The fight takes place on Saturday at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

His return also coincides with Hispanic Heritage Month, so it only fits to delve beneath the surface; if anyone deserves his flowers in a blood sport, it’s Nick Diaz.

You Better Recognize

The Mexican-American showed us what it was like to be from Stockton, California. His attitude put the tiny Northern California town on the map.

Nick Diaz set the tone, from his penchant for walking to the cage on fight night in jeans and a T-shirt sans walkout regalia to his notorious out-of-ring antics.

Known primarily as a jiu-jitsu grappler under Caesar Gracie, Diaz knows how to control the action from the ground. However, he has captured fans worldwide for his unorthodox striking style.

There is a cardinal rule in boxing: keep your hands up at all times. Well, this isn’t boxing; it’s MMA, and Diaz made famous taunting your opponent with his hands down. It became a signature also for his younger brother Nate Diaz, who followed in his big brother’s footsteps right into the UFC.

Nate Diaz is the winner of The Ultimate Fighter season 5.

The Journeyman Champ

The elder Diaz was a perfect example of how to become a star journeyman fighter. From his first professional match in 2001, he went on a four-fight win streak that included a win over future UFC top contender Chris Lytle.

That fight netted him the IFC United States Welterweight Championship in only his second professional fight.

In the second round, he stopped Hawaiian legend Harris Sarmiento on his home turf in Hawaii in only his sixth fight. Diaz went on to win the inaugural World Extreme Cagefighting welterweight title in only his eighth match.

He successfully defended the IFC U.S. Welterweight Championship by his ninth and won the IFC Americas Welterweight Championship. He also won the ISKA MMA Americas Welterweight Championship all in the same night.

Underground King

Diaz was already an underground fight legend by the time he made it to the UFC in 2003, but the Octagon would make him a star. He knocked out Robbie Lawler and Drew Fickett in the second and first rounds, respectively. However, after going 6-4 in his initial three-year run with the UFC, Diaz took his talents around the MMA promotional sphere.

After leaving the UFC and fighting for PRIDE FC and EliteXC, he ultimately settled at Strikeforce and became a world champion. After defeating Marius Zaromskis in the first round in 2010 to win the Strikeforce inaugural welterweight title, he held it the rest of his time with the organization.

His legendary defenses included wins over KJ Noons, Evangelista Santos, and Paul Daley.

However, the game didn’t show the love back that Diaz gave to it at some point, mainly because he was the first open advocate of cannabis usage in the sport.

The First Advocate

Diaz failed drug tests and advocated for the usage of the plant as an alternative to prescription medicines. He was reviled and sanctioned for it. Last July, professional fighters in Nevada were no longer to be punished for using cannabis.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission voted unanimously to remove marijuana from its list of banned substances for combat athletes.

Nick Diaz blazed a trail for many athletes with his stance on holistic healing methods and was an early pioneer of the bad boy image in MMA. He is a world champion and leader of a movement of young Mexican-Americans who have taken MMA by storm.

This weekend he returns to the cage as the main event of UFC 266 as a newly minted middleweight. Give him his flowers now.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhettย hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.