When one thinks of Stockton, Calif., there's a good chance they think about Nick Diaz. The Diaz brothers and the Skrap Pack have become synonymous with the Stockton region and its area code, the 209, having grown up on its hardscrabble streets from the time both brothers were kids all the way until the present day, where Nick and Nate Diaz have firmly entrenched themselves as two of the biggest draws in the mixed martial arts while never once betraying their roots.
Through it all, the brothers have built a unique sense of mythology around their inner circle, aided by stories like a young Nate Diaz first attending jiu-jitsu classes just so the older students would buy him burritos from a food truck that parked itself outside the gym after training sessions. Nick has at time opened up about his difficult childhood as well, although he added a few more pieces to the puzzle this week, reflecting back on the bumpy road that first led him to mixed martial arts.
"I was never, like, picking on people or anything like that. I was more the other way around," Diaz reflected on Opie Radio. "I was a little insecure, I was broke. I was on welfare getting dropped off around the corner. My mom, she dropped me off down the street, she's driving a sh*tty car. And I wouldn't go to school unless my clothes looked right or something. I had a really hot girlfriend in high school and I'd get into fights over that. And by the time I got into high school, I was moved around into a lot of schools, so I was getting into fights in high school.
"And then I had bad attendance. They put me on some half-day thing where they're like, ‘okay, you're dangerous. We want you to make perfect attendance before you can come back to a full day, and we're going to escort you from class to class.' So I'm, like, already embarrassed and insecure enough to be in school, I'm getting in fights all the time, and then my mom, she was kind of a pushover. She wasn't going to go, ‘hey, this is bullsh*t,' so I just basically had no shot at doing well in school. So I dropped out sophomore year and starting competing in jiu-jitsu."
Diaz said he wanted to join the wrestling team in grade school but was unable to because of his bad attendance. He said he was never a strong kid at that age, and that too prevented him from succeeding in wrestling whenever he was able to compete, which is what led to him discover jiu-jitsu and the David versus Goliath ethos the sport was founded upon.
"I was 15 years old," Diaz said. "You had a bunch of wannabe pro bodybuilders, football players, and pro wrestling -- everybody was doing pro wrestling back in the day and a lot of those guys tried to transition over. So I always had different looks in the gym, like strong guys, steroids. ... I was already doing martial arts and I was already getting into fights. I actually went to go train to learn how to fight better, so when I ended up in a fight over my girlfriend or over whatever gangster bullsh*t I had that was going on back then, I was going to get the better of it.
"And then I started having real confidence. I'd come home and tell my friends, like, ‘yo, dude, I just tapped out this guy, he's buff.' I'd be like, ‘dude, I could choke your dad, you don't understand.' I'm 14, I could whoop your dad's ass. I was fanatical about it then. But once I turned pro, that was it, it was over. I was like, okay, this sucks."
Diaz has talked frequently over the years about his love-hate relationship with fighting, often explaining that it is a dismal experience to live with a fight date looming over your head but that, for better or worse, he just happens to be the man for the job. He reiterated that point this week, but Diaz also extolled the virtues of the "fight life" that he lives, explaining that there is a fundamental difference between the mindset of he and his brother and how the rest of the UFC roster operates.
"People don't understand," Diaz said. "You want to come into this with a nice wife and a nice life? I'm like, mother*cker, I didn't get none of that. I don't get to go home to my nice wife and nice life. And if you're doing that every day, you're putting all that effort into your nice wife, I'm putting 100-percent into what I do. I'm going to f*ck your whole world up right in front of your nice wife and your nice life. It's not going to be fun.
"Like (Eddie) Alvarez, I'm just saying: look, he ended up (being) the guy for the job too, but now you're fighting (Conor) McGregor, okay? You got so much riding on it, you can't act the way that I act and say the things that I'm capable of saying. I live a fight life, I can do what I want to win a fight. You have to worry about what people are going to think about you, and then when all of that goes out into the media, people start believing the hype. They start buying into the hype. Now the people around you, including your family and everybody, starts buying into that hype too and they start bringing nervous energy around you.
"It's just negative every. It's just negativity, and you've got to just ignore it. But when you have the whole family, you've got too much riding on all that stuff to be able to have the freedom to do what you want, say what you want. If I want to say ‘f*ck you' and look at you to your face and say, ‘hey, f*ck your mother,' then I can do that. I don't have to worry about being a good role model."