The Diaz brothers, Nate and Nick, share the same hatred for anything that dilutes fighting. The very idea of MMA as a sport riles them. They wish for the old days.
“I wish these fights were unlimited time, like 30-minute fights or 10-minute rounds,” Nate told MMAWeekly.com.
The younger Diaz still has a sour taste in his mouth from a decision loss to Clay Guida at UFC 94. Not towards Guida, but toward the points game that defined the fight.
“Clay Guida’s a good dude,” said Diaz. “He comes to fight and everything. I just don’t feel like I lost to him, personally. It just sucks that he gets to say he beat me.”
His irritation is milder than Nick, who rails against an emerging culture of so-called “tennis players” in MMA who speak well and fight for winning scorecards. Nate is still in the UFC; it doesn’t behoove him to yell at officials or throw water bottles. He must adapt.
In the cage, that means he has to be more conservative than he’d like.
“I even lose because of that, because I’m here trying to finish and hurt people,” continued Diaz. “Because it’s a fight, right? But now it’s more of a sport. I mean it’s always been a sport, but it’s more about points. You gottta get used to it.”
Since Guida, he’s worked tirelessly with training partners Jake Shields, Gilbert Melendez, and brother Nick at Cesar Gracie Academy. There’s been no time off; someone always is in camp. If he misses a day, he hears about it soon.
“I’m never not showing up, because there’s 10, 15 other guys that will be calling my phone,” he said. “Jake, Gilbert, Nick… they’re going to be calling my phone if I’m not there. Cesar’s on my case. Even when I’m training hard, he’s calling me every day, making sure I’m doing stuff.”
In the gym, he trains to inflict damage at all times and keep in control of the fight. In a division filled with strong wrestlers trained to counteract his stand-up and jiu-jitsu, avoiding the takedown is crucial.
“Sometimes I’m too busy trying to finish, kill ’em, put a beatdown on them, and I get taken down when I’m trying to rip people’s heads off,” he explained. “You’ve gotta be careful, you have to make sure you’re scoring points, staying ahead, and you’ve only got 15 minutes.”
Despite the loss, Diaz has already been spoken of in the company of 155-pound contenders, and a serious threat a few years down the line. The 24-year-old lost little stock with the setback; his next foe, Joe Stevenson, is a former title contender who’s fighting for relevancy.
Diaz thinks their styles are more similar than most might think.
“He does the same type of thing as me, a totally different body style, so it might look different,” he said. “But he strikes with people… he’s really well rounded. It’s going to be a tough fight. He’s one of the top guys in this weight division. I don’t want no slouches. I’m ready to put that ass whuppin’ down.”
He says it’s only a matter of time before he cracks the top five in the division. Only his youth is holding him back.
“Most of the time, these Top 10 guys are not Top 10 guys,” he said. “But they’ve done it, they’ve been fighting. I see what they do and I know what I’m capable of.”