The NFL has it with players like Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco. The NBA has always had a cast of characters with players like Dennis Rodman and now Ron Artest.
The sport of MMA is filled with unique personalities, but if there’s one fighter who definitely walks to the beat of his own drum it’s Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz.
Brash and unapologetic, the promotion’s top 170-pounder doesn’t back down from saying what’s on his mind, while even managing to mix in a few expletives along the way. He’s blasted the pay scale in MMA, gone after an opponent in the hospital after their fight was over, and called the thought of fighting his teammates in the cage ‘disgusting.’
He even tosses in a few middle fingers for good measure.
Regardless of whatever personality Diaz portrays before the fight and sometimes even in the fight, as he’s been known to taunt more than a few opponents, his skill is undeniable. A whiz on the ground with a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Diaz has also showcased some tremendous boxing skills and possibly the best jab in the sport.
One other characteristic that defines Nick Diaz – he never backs down from his opponent’s strengths.
Most critics would have called Diaz crazy for trying to go toe-to-toe with knockout artist Robbie Lawler when the two met back in 2004, but when it was over it was Lawler who was planted face first on the canvas, the victim of a Diaz punch. After suffering a loss due to cuts from a fight in 2007, Diaz didn’t back down when trading shots with pro boxer turned MMA fighter K.J. Noons in a rematch to defend his Strikeforce belt in 2010.
Diaz now heads into his next test – a fight with possibly the best striker at 170 pounds in the entire sport – with the same attitude that’s always defined who he is.
Come at me with whatever defines you, and I’ll find a way to beat you at your own game.
Going into the fight, Diaz’s opponent, Paul Daley, has said time and time again that he plans on knocking Diaz out, but the Stockton, Calif. native wouldn’t expect anything less. If Daley wasn’t trying to knock him out, Diaz would be disappointed.
“Well, that’s what he does, he throws punches,” Diaz said about Daley’s desire to knock him out. “I’ll take what I can get, I’ll win any way necessary, that’s how I started this. He’s trying to do what he’s got to do. I understand that.”
“That’s a lovely thought for anybody who’s a striker.”
Diaz respects Daley’s knockout power. The former UFC title contender has 27 wins on his record and 20 of them come by way of knockout or TKO.
When Daley swings at someone, it’s always with the intention of knocking them out and more often than not it works. Diaz understands that Daley has dynamite in both hands, but he also knows that the Brit has struggled in other parts of his game, and MMA isn’t just a stand-up fight.
“It’s probably better than anyone else we have fighting in MMA,” Diaz said about Daley’s striking. “I said I wasn’t overly impressed with his MMA skills as far as a fighter. I think it’s a good match-up.”
Many fighters going into a title defense would be talking about holding onto their belt or what it means to be champion. Once again that’s where Diaz is not walking the line.
He says his focus is on making sure he’s ready, but also that his teammates are prepared for their upcoming fights. Diaz works with UFC welterweight contender Jake Shields, as well as Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez, his younger brother Nate, and UFC welterweight Daniel Roberts.
Diaz wants his team to make a clean sweep through the month of April where they all have fights. If they accomplish that, Diaz will be happier than any title belt that’s wrapped around his waist.
“I’m a fighter and I’m ready to fight,” said Diaz.
If nothing else defines who Nick Diaz is as a person, training partner, or champion, that one statement does. He’s a fighter.