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There's nothing wrong with the Diaz brothers being one of a kind

Esther Lin, Sportsfile

ORLANDO – Nate Diaz is the last of the Diaz clan still eligible to fight, which therefore makes him a kind of national treasure. It’s been a year since Diaz last stepped in a cage, and when he did he lost to Raphael dos Anjos in a non-competitive bout after missing weight by a considerable number. Try telling that to last pillar of Stockton. A year removed from that, Diaz told the media in Florida on Thursday that he was fighting at ten percent that night and Dos Anjos still couldn’t finish him.

"Remember the slap?" he said, waving his hand to demonstrate. "I said, you might win but you ain’t going to finish me motherf*cker. He got mad and threw a little temper tantrum, did you see him? He was mad. I pissed him off. Sorry about that."

Diaz is one of the few fighters on the UFC roster who can show up with a single win in three-and-a-half years and complain that the carpet isn’t as red as it should be under his feet. Another way of saying that, Diaz is one of the last few loveable figures in the fight game. Like his brother, he transcends wins and losses, and the concept of point-fighting is sacrilegious. He has nothing to do with what you might call the norm, and represents both the heartbeat and the fringe of the sport. Every time he talks, his middle fingers instinctively begin springing to life. He can’t help it. His grudges and grievances mix deftly with his loyalties and gratitudes.

The dude is a joy to cover.

And he was in a good mood on Thursday, rolling in with his suspended brother Nick and his NorCal faction. Never mind that he doesn’t necessarily like media, he complained about the turnout for UFC on FOX 17 media day after the buzzing hive that descended on Vegas last week for Conor McGregor. He proclaimed that he’s the money fight for McGregor, and in fact swiped at the UFC for pushing the Irishman for doing basically the "same shit" that he’d been doing for five years. Diaz said he provided the blueprint. Not that he was trying to create a rift, homie, because he ain’t.

He just wants you to know there are some slights in play, and they’re as fluid as jabs.

When he looked at the promotional poster for UFC on FOX 17, which featured a miniature dos Anjos and a full-sized profile picture of the "Cowboy," Donald Cerrone — along with Junior dos Santos and Alistair Overeem — Diaz asked for a pen. When one of his dutiful posse tracked a pen down, he drew himself on the poster as a stick figure with bulging muscles. He rectified the situation, which was very Diaz. His likeness looked just right as a form of graffiti.

And it should be noted that Diaz, even after his time away, was the headliner of the media day. He was scheduled last, and he arrived late. One of the first was Michael Johnson, who happens to be his opponent for Saturday night. In some ways Johnson was incidental, though his atrium scuffle with Diaz Friday morning felt like he was playing right into the hands of Stockton.  

Who is Nate Diaz? Why do we love him? I’d like to say it’s because he’s anti-authority, anti-social, anti-PC, yet bashful, innocent and actually very funny. But really it’s because he’s a fighter first. Fighters like him are deeply conflicted, yet endearingly sincere. When somebody asked him about his time away, you couldn’t help but think about his brother, standing 10 feet away, who is currently serving a five-year ban for marijuana use and a bad attitude.

"It’s like this man," Nate said. "Fighting drives me crazy. But not fighting? That sh*t drives me crazier. It’s weird, it’s like I’ve become institutionalized."

Here he looked around for a minute, filled with self-doubt, momentarily self-conscious.

"Is that the right word? Institutionalized?" he said. "If you’re not fighting you’re dying, straight up."

Tell that to the totalitarian fate ushers in Nevada, who took that right from Nick. It’s down to Nate for now. The last of the Diaz clan who can fight legally. The man that The Man hasn’t yet succeeded in taking down. But he’s still got the trademark scowl to lead you to believe otherwise.