This is new territory for Braulio Estima.
Being one of the most decorated BJJ players in the world isn't the worst gig, though you'd probably be surprised at the lack of recognition that comes with a closet full of golden hardware. But getting wrapped-up in the Nick Diaz circus? That's a different beast entirely.
The unique cult of personality that surrounds Diaz, eliciting squawks of ‘don't be scared homie' at defaced portraits of Carlos Condit halfway across the globe, is exactly why the two-time ADCC champion suddenly finds himself inundated with P.R. requests, as inquiring eyeballs flock to watch Diaz's latest exploit with half-gawking curiosity.
For Estima, it is an impeccable stroke of fortune he never planned for.
"This was the perfect (set of circumstances)," the 31-year-old Brazilian explained on The MMA Hour. "I was actually going to do a free seminar at the expo of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and I heard Nick Diaz was going to do a grappling match at the same expo. The first thing that came to my mind was, ‘Wow, that would be a great match-up because we have kind of the same weight and kind of the same height, and he fights with submissions, I fight with submissions. He is a legend in the MMA sport.'"
In a surprising turn of events, Diaz, caught in a tenuous legal battle with the Nevada State Athletic Commission, had turned to Long Beach's World Jiu-Jitsu Expo to satiate his competitive urges. While hundreds of miles away, deep in the coastal wetlands of Boca Raton, Estima buried himself into coaching duties for the Blackzilian camp, preparing Rashad Evans for his upcoming UFC 145 title fight.
As luck would have it, the two timetables matched-up perfectly.
"I was training in Florida when Junior, one of the main guys for the expo, approached me and said, 'How about a fight with Nick Diaz?' Estima cheerfully recalled. "I said, 'Wow. Man, I would love to have this fight!' This will help both of us."
Now, in a matter of weeks, Diaz vs. Estima has become the most heavily-publicized BJJ match in recent memory. Selling at $10 a pop, the pay-per-view has delivered a flood of new observers to the niche expo, each of whom know next to nothing about Estima and his lifetime of accomplishments.
Nothing, except of course, that he's supposed to wipe the floor with Diaz.
"I think people underestimate a lot, the experience that Nick has," Estima mused. "He's not an easy fight. I think because of my name, because of what I've achieved ... the pressure is all on me. Which helps him. He has nothing to lose in this match. I have everything (to lose).
"He has no pressure to win this fight. He just needs to go in there and do a good job."
Estima, who has won everything from the Mundials to the Pan American Championships, admits he won't be 100 percent for the match because of how abruptly the opportunity arose. But as he puts it, the unusual set of circumstances could become an interesting nuance that makes things "a little bit more even."
"I'm coming off of a break since Abu Dhabi, and haven't been training as hard as I was for ADCC," Estima confessed. "I had to lose a lot of weight to make this fight at 180. I will be coming from Thailand which is like 14 hours of difference. The jet lag is going to be great."
So if this match feels different, it's probably because it is. In more ways than one, apparently. With more eyeballs come more expectations, and for Estima, a rather tough spotlight to be thrust into.
But when the time comes, and he and Diaz look eye to eye, none of that will matter. He's been here his entire life, and this moment, just like all the others before it, is going to feel right at home.
"I can't wait to put my feet on the mat and start grappling," Estima concluded with a grin.
"I really want to be the first guy that ever taps him."
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