Image Nate Diaz. If his face just isn’t lined in a cascade of crimson, you then’re doing it flawed.
For that would be the lasting picture of the American, the UFC’s nice gunslinger who was typically crushed, typically bloodied, however remained – in his personal phrase – “undefeated”.
When Diaz was paired with Khamzat Chimaev in UFC 279’s unique foremost occasion, the overriding feeling among the many MMA fandom was that the 37-year-old was being put out to pasture. Diaz had lengthy wished to get within the Octagon one final time to see out UFC contract, solely to be placed on ice for greater than a 12 months after dropping to now-welterweight champion Leon Edwards final June. The choice introduced to the fan favorite was this: Chimaev or nobody.
For context, Chimaev was on the time unbeaten at 11-0, the 28-year-old having gained his first 10 bouts through end and having remarkably absorbed only one important strike in his first 4 UFC outings. Whereas his subsequent determination win in opposition to ex-title challenger Gilbert Burns this April lastly made Chimaev look human, it additionally proved the Russian-born Swede’s pedigree.
So, when the UFC’s fastest-rising star missed weight final Friday, somewhat over 24 hours earlier than his scheduled welterweight conflict with Diaz, the American’s response was little doubt: ‘Nonetheless undefeated.’
“If u can’t make it to battle u lose the battle,” he famously tweeted in late 2018, when Dustin Poirier suffered an damage that dominated him out of a struggle with Diaz, whose personal 21-13 document seemingly means little to the Stockton native or his supporters. In Diaz’s thoughts, Chimaev’s failed weight-cut was as a lot of a victory for the 37-year-old as his personal precise win in opposition to Tony Ferguson in the future later.
Chimaev had scorched previous new opponent Kevin Holland with a first-round submission moments earlier, in a way to counsel that he would have brutalised Diaz, but it surely didn’t matter; UFC 279 will go down as a celebration of Diaz, who snatched Ferguson’s neck the second his compatriot took him down in Spherical 4, locking in a guillotine choke whereas concurrently unlocking these UFC-brand shackles.
Diaz vs Ferguson was a struggle that followers had lengthy hoped to see, and few on the T-Cell Enviornment in Las Vegas appeared to care that it was in the end a sloppy affair between growing old icons. Diaz, for what it’s value, was the sharper fighter, edging many of the hanging exchanges earlier than the decisive second within the fourth spherical.
And therein exists one of many key components to the Diaz enigma; the American by no means challenged for a UFC title – and even got here notably shut – however nonetheless managed to earn definitive, monumental wins in opposition to world champions.
Ferguson’s peak exists solely up to now tense, however the 38-year-old gained 12 fights in a row in a seven-year stretch from 2013 to 2020 that noticed him grow to be interim light-weight champion. Simply 4 months in the past he was outperforming a former three-time world champion in Michael Chandler, earlier than succumbing to one of many biggest knockouts in UFC historical past. If Diaz specialises in sporting blood, “El Cucuy” specialises in drawing it. But Diaz remarkably survived unscathed at UFC 279, to frustrate the creator of this text and its intro and put away Ferguson in scientific style.
Then there may be Anthony Pettis, a former undisputed light-weight champion whom Diaz comfortably outpointed in 2019 after two years and 362 days out of the Octagon.
Virtually precisely three years prior, Diaz had contested one of many all-time nice UFC contests with Conor McGregor, narrowly dropping on factors to the then-featherweight champion, who would declare a second title in a distinct division three months later.
However Diaz had already conjured his crowning second that March, stepping in on brief discover to face McGregor in the principle occasion of UFC 196, the place the American survived the Irishman’s inevitable first-round onslaught to choke McGregor into submission in Spherical 2. Few had given Diaz a prayer. He didn’t want one.
“I’m not shocked motherf*****,” Diaz insisted in his post-fight interview, in a second that can eternally stay part of his legacy, together with the viral callout that opened the door to a conflict with McGregor within the first place.
Days after McGregor’s 13-second KO of Jose Aldo in December 2015, Diaz defeated Michael Johnson and was requested by UFC commentator Joe Rogan to evaluate his personal efficiency. “F*** that,” Diaz replied. “Conor McGregor, you’re taking the whole lot I labored for, mom f******. I’m gonna struggle your f******g a**. You already know what’s the true struggle, what’s the true cash struggle: me. Not these clowns that you just already punked on the press convention. Ain’t no one need to see that. You already know you possibly can beat them already, it’s a straightforward struggle. You need the true s***, proper right here.”
And it was the true cash struggle, rising because the highest-grossing pay-per-view in UFC historical past. That document would stand for simply 5 months, when the occasion was eclipsed by UFC 202: McGregor vs Diaz II. A trilogy bout between the rivals stays on the cardboard to this present day.
Lately, non-title-fight UFC foremost occasions have been extremely few and much between, but Diaz has featured in 4 of them – two with out McGregor, in opposition to Ferguson and Jorge Masvidal, in a testomony to his personal star energy. The Californian’s conflict with Edwards in June 2021 was additionally the primary ever five-round struggle in UFC historical past to neither function a foremost occasion nor see a title contested. Even in defeat that evening, Diaz was a ‘winner’, virtually overriding 4 minutes and 50 seconds of dominance by Edwards when he shocked the Briton with a proper hand within the closing moments. That was what followers had been speaking concerning the following morning – not Edwards’ clinic.
There was a time when Diaz’s profession appeared sure to play out within the shadow of his older brother’s; Nick Diaz was a two-time UFC title challenger, in spite of everything, and has at all times been equally beloved by followers regardless of possessing a equally patchy document to his youthful brother’s. As a substitute, Nate’s star started to burn brightly sufficient to dwarf Nick’s shadow, although the youthful Diaz brother’s post-battle cry of “Nick Diaz military” continued to sound after every of his personal victories, together with Saturday’s.
Within the period of McGregor, Diaz established himself because the second-biggest star in MMA however arguably probably the most admired. Throughout 15 years within the UFC, his cult following gave approach to a world fanbase that can await his subsequent transfer – his first outdoors the UFC since 2006 – with nice anticipation.
So, neglect the document, however bear in mind the blood, the soundbites, the upsets. Nate Diaz’s legacy may be probably the most distinctive in UFC historical past.