It may have taken him almost 10 years, but Nate Diaz finally understands the business of MMA.
In March, Diaz stepped in on 10 days' notice to fight the UFC's biggest star, featherweight champion Conor McGregor. That night Diaz, a fighter already with a sizable fan base, stopped McGregor in the second round, gave the world a now famous soundbite ("I'm not surprised motherf**kers!") and became a mainstream star. It was an unexpected turn of events for a fighter who had been voicing displeasure over his pay and booking for years.
In an interview with Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports, Diaz spoke about how he got wise to the business side of MMA, how that has affected him, and what that means going forward.
"People will say, ‘I'll fight anybody, I love to fight.' You love to fight? [Expletive] that. People say that. And, yeah, I said that. And I woke up. It takes a lot of fighting to wake up. ‘I'll fight anybody for free? I'll fight anybody?' That's what [the UFC] wants. That's what pads their bottom line. Then I realized, ‘[Expletive] you [expletive], you're playing me.'
"I'd look at my following [on social media] and other peoples' followings and I'd look at the numbers for the Fox shows they were putting me on and I was like, ‘Damn, a lot of people are tuning into these shows.' I was headlining a lot of them back-to-back. I was like, ‘I am bringing in bigger numbers than anybody and I'm not getting the deals. ‘Fox card,' they always said. ‘Free TV, free TV.' I was like, ‘No, it's not free, they have million-dollar deals to put this many shows on Fox and I'm headlining three shows a year? ... Then they are trying to shut me down, shut me up, [saying], ‘He doesn't move the needle.' They are just trying to put that out in the mainstream because then people start saying that and it's true."
Back in 2014, UFC President Dana White declared that Nate Diaz has no reason to be unhappy with his contract because he was "not a needle mover." At the time, Diaz had been turning down fights because of his unhappiness with the UFC and White was content to let him sit for as long as he chose to despite the fact that Diaz had headlined three of his last four fights and all of them drew well on television. Whether or not Diaz really wasn't a "needle mover," he certainly didn't have any leverage over the UFC and that created an environment that he was unhappy in. Then came the call to fight McGregor and everything changed.
"I [expletive] up everyone's plan by winning that fight. I was like, ‘Ha, ha, you [expletives], call me for the next one, you better come with something good.' I don't give a [expletive]. You didn't give me enough money but I come from a place with no money and you give me too much money. I don't give a [expletive] about making more. I am doing better than I was ever supposed to do."
And come with something good they did. After his win over McGregor, Diaz demanded a new contract of substantially larger value. Then, after McGregor no showed the UFC 200 press conference in his own spat of promotional hardball, Diaz demanded even more money and more guarantees. Eventually, the UFC acquiesced and got the rematch set up for UFC 202, which will likely be one of the biggest pay-per-view events in the promotion's history.
And should Diaz win the rematch, the UFC may have to do it all over again.
"[The UFC] better hope I don't win this fight because it's going to be a lot of trouble for everybody, in terms of the business. This one coming up, they better hope I don't win this one because the game is going to change."
I can't imagine the UFC will be surprised.
Nate Diaz fights Conor McGregor at UFC 202 on Aug. 20, in Las Vegas, Nev.
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I'm giving love to my guys this week and this little dude right here is everything. @rosendo_sanchez thanks brother for the commitment, the skill level and the coaching. But most importantly thank you for friendship. Every morning he drives 2 1/2 hours to get to the gym at 7am so that we can train. Always laughing , joking and making the times we spend fun. Thanks my brother I appreciate you. #weareaka #allwegot #ufc200 #andstill
In life, we sometimes pour so much of our soul into one thing that it becomes a totem of our own self worth. Our identity becomes so intertwined with the goal that failure isn't just a loss in that area but an indictment of ourselves entire. There is a reason that Ronda Rousey had suicidal thoughts after her loss to Holly Holm. It wasn't because she is mentally weak or any of that other disparaging bullsh*t that gets spouted off, it was because the idea of her losing was so anathema to her very being that she couldn't handle it (and also possibly because of a family history with this issue).
I say all this because as Saturday rapidly approaches, I am genuinely concerned for Daniel Cormier. Cormier has spent his entire life perfecting various levels of combat. For the last year, he's been training obsessively for this rematch. He has put more of himself into this than you or I will put into anything we ever do in our lives. You can see it in the way he talks and hear it in his voice. This isn't just a fight to him, it's a moral imperative. He must beat Jon Jones. He wants this so very badly and he has clearly done everything in his power to make it happen. And it still isn't going to be enough.
Jon Jones is one of the five best fighters ever already and he is only 28 years old. He is younger, faster, stronger, more dynamic, and has an enormous size advantage over Cormier not to mention being German U-Boat deep in Cormier's head. I fear Cormier is about to get beat in brutal fashion.
All of this is to say that I hope Cormier wins on Saturday, not because I dislike Jones (I don't - Jon Jones is an amazing fighter and now that he is embracing being his heel self he's just an all-around delight) but because Cormier clearly needs this more than Jon Jones does. I don't know the man personally and have never met him but he seems like a genuinely good dude, and I would hate to see his everything derailed or his retirement from the sport.
Oh, and also the rubber match would be headlining the Madison Square Garden in November, which would be the dopest UFC of all-time.
That's it for today M.Rmy. Until tomorrow.
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