When Nate Diaz returned to mixed martial arts action after a three-year self-imposed layoff, he didn’t disappoint. Over three rounds, Diaz pummeled tough-as-nails former UFC lightweight champion, Anthony “Showtime” Pettis to re-enter a new world of UFC braggarts.
However, Diaz has been outspoken and unmovable as a competitor his whole 12 years in the UFC. Finally, it feels like the game is catching up to him.
Diaz is the other half of MMA’s notorious Diaz brothers, with his older brother Nick being one of the most enigmatic figures in MMA history.
From outspoken advocacy of cannabis and CBD, before it became popular and legalized to the younger Diaz’ second-round submission victory over Conor McGregor back in 2016, the Stockton, California native has never given any _____ (fill in the blank).
So much so that ahead of his UFC 241 showdown in Anaheim on August 17th, he lit up a hemp joint at the open workouts. Hemp is now federally legal via the 2018 Farm Bill making George Washington proud.
Diaz, once considered a problem by UFC President Dana White for refusing to fight anyone not named Conor McGregor after his 2016 loss to the fighter, is now the darling of the MMA industry. In a world where bad-boy antics are now preferred by a salivating MMA audience, Diaz’ time has finally come.
Interestingly, Diaz shatters the status quo of poor and privileged white bad boys that have been the norm for the sport’s poster boys. Diaz is a Mexican-American in a time when Donald Trump is on a rampage against illegal immigration from the Southern border and UFC interim welterweight champion Colby Covington dons a MAGA hat and regurgitates White House edicts.
However, Diaz, who like the beloved cinematic antihero Scarface has lived by the code “All I have in this world is my balls and my word and I don’t break them for no one”. It was a long-shot bet that cost him three primary earning years while McGregor went on to become a global superstar, however, everyone knows the long game yields the biggest payoffs.
Recently, Dana White said that “Nate Diaz is a Conor McGregor-Ronda Rousey level UFC star.
In the words of Billie Ellish, ‘Duh!’ In truth, the majority-white UFC audience needed to catch up to Diaz and his antihero brethren.
Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal is smiling a lot these days.
The Cuban-American former street fighter from South Florida has always been about fisticuffs and yearned for more opportunities to show his skill set. After making a name in Strikeforce, the fighter entered the UFC and began to slowly build up his namesake.
However, it was his wins over Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and his most recent 5-second flying knee win over “Funky” Ben Askren that pushed him over the edge of popularity. Masvidal and Diaz both bring a street culture that isn’t codified by traditional UFC culture.
Instead, both Masvidal and Diaz have made the game understand and respect their unique code that is drenched in realness and needs no polish.
The fact that Diaz and Masvidal are now a priority of the UFC with main event level options at their disposal and a ravenous fan base on ESPN is timely indeed. During a time when the UFC’s other stars of color like Daniel Cormier and Tyron Woodley have all taken considerable ‘L’s’ professionally and culturally, Diaz and Masvidal are leading a new pack of fighters.
The pushback to Colby Covington and Conor McGregor’s profitable use of white angst is here and they are in it for the long haul.