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Shaun Al-Shatti | August 12, 2016

Heart of the 209

Art: Edward Cao

Heart of the 209

By Shaun Al-Shatti

Nate Diaz said this would happen. He told us for years. The decade-long slog may not have been the way he drew it up, but even then, Diaz set the bait for his best catch in classic Diaz Brother fashion. Three fucks and one shit over 19 seconds on a live national primetime broadcast. A post-fight callout so profane that on-air censors punted the audio within seconds, leaving a live audience stunned and nearly three million at home wondering what the hell they just missed. You couldn’t script it any better. Afterward, in the bowels of the arena, Diaz said he only fought at UFC on FOX 17 to set up a fight with Conor McGregor. He worried that his message would be lost to the big long bleep, but his older brother Nick assured him that social media would carry the word, and of course Nick was right.

This game can be dizzying. Within four months, Nate Diaz swung from persona non grata to beloved superstar, from no leverage to silly leverage. One win over the human Pulp Fiction briefcase and suddenly a decade of prediction looked prophetic. Diaz always told us he was here, right here, just waiting for that UFC push, just waiting for that nudge into the mainstream saved for the Northcutts and Van Zants. Now he’s on Conan beefing with Bieber.

Can you imagine how all of this would’ve sounded two years ago, when things were so bleak the UFC whitewashed Diaz from its own lightweight rankings? A few keystrokes and poof — eight years of service gone, the fighting pride of Stockton replaced by a ghost, a name written in invisible ink. The higher-ups claimed he lost his No. 5 ranking for sporting reasons. Even worse, for "inactivity." This, less than six months after Diaz headlined a UFC show with a two-minute romp over a top-10 opponent. The kind of inactivity that draws over one-million eyes to a channel still in its infancy.

Diaz cashed a disclosed check of $15,000 to show and $15,000 to win that last fight before he vanished into the ether — low numbers for any contender, but startlingly low for a veteran entering his fighting prime, a lightweight who predated the modern lightweight division, whose career arc followed a solitary path from The Ultimate Fighter to the UFC, who spent nearly a decade within company lines and already counted 17 main card appearances in 22 fights. Someone who through a trail of blood and middle fingers had proven to be among the best and most popular 155-pounders in the world.

When Diaz showed up in Phoenix a year later, injured and disillusioned, the co-headliner on another FOX show, having been told explicitly how little he "moved the needle," he was the definition of an athlete going through the motions. He ended up making $16,000 in disclosed pay to fight the division’s No. 1 contender on a FOX broadcast that peaked at over 3.8 million viewers. Before the fight he told me straight up: I'll lose and they'll bring me back for another big spot.

Say what you want about the Diaz Brothers, but those boys always knew the score.

And that’s why all of this is so crazy. Somewhere between the cryptic tweets and vetoed requests for release, it started feeling like we were heading towards an inevitable and unfortunate end for Nate Diaz. His standoff with the UFC stretched across years, precious time wasted on infrequent paychecks while misinformation spread and an unsympathetic public all but wrote him off, the UFC’s own narrative casting him as a complainer, a malcontent who couldn’t play the game long enough to get out of his own way.

But then Orlando happened, and this mercurial sport proved all over again that all it takes is one good night. One night where the one-twos started flowing and the swears started flying, and just like old times, the Stockton slaps rained down from the heavens on poor Michael Johnson — and like magic, everyone remembered everything that came before. Mid-round birds to Cowboy and double fingers over a fully locked-in triangle; it was like seeing an old friend for the first time in years and suddenly realizing how badly you missed them. Then came the callout to end all callouts.

Then came reimbursement.

And just like that, Nate Diaz was right.

Ten years and 25 fights, perhaps the sport’s strangest and most winding road to UFC stardom, but it happened. Nathan Diaz is a star. A genuine star. Now and forever, and headlining what will likely be two of the most profitable pay-per-views in UFC history will only help that fact.

Maybe this took longer than expected. Maybe the UFC just never understood what it had, how a hardscrabble figure like Diaz could have such broad appeal. Hell, maybe this was all just luck, and the perfect dance partner simply found the perfect dance at the perfect time. It doesn’t matter. If Diaz hit free agency after UFC 202, win or lose, he would be among the most coveted free agents of the past decade. And he did things his way.

So to celebrate one of the most improbable ascensions the UFC has ever seen, we turned to those who understand best what Conor McGregor is up against. This is the story of how a younger brother from Stockton upended the fight game, one scalp at a time, told by those who know best what it means to stand against the 209. The King is dead. Long live the King.


Rob Emerson (The Ultimate Fighter 5): I didn't even know Nick had a younger brother until we got on that show. I heard there was going to be a couple of lions in that season and we were in the van, it was me, Cole Miller, Matt Wiman, Nate, I think Gray Maynard and a couple other guys. Guys with names. Quality guys. At that time there wasn't that big of a lightweight division. There wasn't even a lightweight division in the UFC, so I knew all of the names from the surrounding circuits.

"Nate was quiet. You could tell he was a guy who, respect had to be earned. That was one thing I caught about him — it takes experience to be like that. You have to keep an eye on the quiet guys."—Rob Emerson

I also knew Nick was from Stockton. I'd driven by there a couple times. My daughter lives in Redding in Northern California, so I'd passed through Stockton a few times and I knew it was kind of a rough city. Especially if you're born and raised there, you have to be pretty rough coming from there. And Nate just gave off that persona. He was quiet. You could tell he was a guy who, respect had to be earned. That was one thing I caught about him —€” it takes experience to be like that. Normally, guys who are newer in the sport, they don't have real, life-experience confidence. It's more confidence they've built around themselves, like shit their friends told them. Those are the guys who talk, the Gabe Ruedigers and other guys on the show. You kind of just check them off. But you have to keep an eye on the quiet guys.

Manny Gamburyan (The Ultimate Fighter 5 Finale): Being in that house, it was the worst thing ever. Imagine. Imagine no TV. No cell phone. Sixteen dudes in the same house. They're all your opponents. The guy you're about to fight lives with you, eats with you, sleeps in the same house. It was kind of fucked up. You learn a lot about yourself. Your character. I mean, you might know yourself, but being away from your family and being you, just you, alone —€” it was like jail, to be honest.

Nate and I ended up being on the same team, and we actually thought about it —€” we thought about leaving. I remember I said: ‘You know what, Nate? That fucking fence right there? Let's just jump that and get the fuck out of here.' There were a couple times we considered it. It wasn't a joke. It was serious.

Emerson: They told us when we got there: ‘you guys think it's cool and fun and games, but by Day Three you guys are going to start getting on each other's nerves. You guys are going to start hearing the same stories from the same people. You guys are going to be sick of everyone's bullshit. Watch. It always happens. Every season. Day Three is the day you guys break.' We're like, nah, fuck that. We're in this house, there's no girlfriends, we can do whatever we want. Fuck this, we're going to have a good time.

Sure enough, dude, Day Three rolls around and we're just like, ‘fuck, what am I doing here?' Everyone is getting on your nerves. You're just bored. They purposely set it up that way, there is no source of entertainment. So, I had a marker and I wrote ‘Suck it Team Pulver' on the wall, and Nate took it kind of personally. One of the other guys gets him going, maybe Manny or someone, and then Nate takes it personally. He's freaking out. ‘Who wrote on my wall?!' He's getting all personal with me.

But I think it was just the whole scenario, the whole thing, it weighed heavy on him. Like, you get in a house full of these fucking guys who you don't know, who you have to fight? Him and his brother both are big on, the guy you're fighting is your enemy. You are going to war. You are not going to make friends with him. And man, to be forced to live in a house with guys like that, the ice breaks really quick.

Alvin Robinson (UFC Fight Night 12): I was a big Nick Diaz fan, and I'd watched The Ultimate Fighter. I was actually supposed to be on the season and in the house with those guys, I just didn't want to do it so I turned down the opportunity. But I watched that season and I liked Nate. I liked his attitude. I grew up in California, so that's the attitude that I grew up around, guys like Nick Diaz, Nate Diaz. So when they offered me that fight after he won The Ultimate Fighter and I was his first fight after the finale, I was excited. We both trained under the Gracie name.

When we were going to fight, I flew out by myself. I didn't take any cornermen or anything. I got to the airport in Vegas and the UFC picks me up and they ask, ‘you're here by yourself?' I say, yeah, I'll be here most of the week by myself. And they're like, ‘okay.' The guy gets on the phone and he starts saying, ‘hey, Alvin is here by himself. We need to get him some security.' And I'm like... security? What do I need security for? What are you guys talking about? They're like, ‘look, when we get to the hotel, we want you to go straight to your room. Check into your room. Because Nick and Nate, they're tough guys. If they see you by yourself, they'll jump you. Like, they'll beat you up in the lobby. There's going to be a fight.'

They're telling me all of this stuff and I'm laughing. I'm like, sure, whatever. I mean, I'm not afraid of that kind of stuff, you know? So I'm there and I'm sitting down in the lobby waiting to check into my room. Sure enough, the elevator door opens and here comes Nick and Nate. They had a couple other guys with them, and I'm like... oh shit. Here we go. It was like in my head. This is going to go down right here. I'm thinking, okay, I'm going to take out one of them. I'm thinking I'm going to be jumped, a fight is about to happen. I'm thinking all of this stuff.

Of course they walk by and nothing happens. They're just cool, they stop and say ‘hey, what's up, man? How you doing?' and then they kept walking. But it was funny. I've never had an experience like that before. [The UFC] were terrified something was going to happen.

"The Diaz Brothers never break from that. That's not an act. They have a very loyal following because they're very loyal to themselves as martial artists."—Rory Markham

Rory Markham (UFC 111): It started for me in the hallways the week leading up to the fight. See, the Diaz Brothers are unflappable in their stern gaze. They never break from that. That's not an act. They have a very loyal following because they're very loyal to themselves as martial artists. So, I was coming out of the elevator and I caught eyes with Nick. He kind of tapped Nate, then Nate turned around and they were mugging me.

They put their arms up in that funky boxer style like they do, and they were like, ‘what, what?' Right there in the hallway. I believe had I been testy enough at the moment, had I pursued it, we would would've had a fight right there. But I was more worried about making weight.

Dennis Davis (Warrior Cup): For our fight, believe it or not, my corner did not show up to corner me, so I had a girl (corner me) who had come to the fight. So we get ready and they bring us to the middle of the ring to talk. We're the main event, and Nick comes out with Nate. So it's just me in the middle of the ring with Nick and Nate, and both of them are mean mugging me. And in my head I'm like, oh crap... if I beat Nate... then Nick's going to kick the shit outta me. That's what was going on in my head. Like man, this could be bad.

Robinson: You see, Nate and Nick both, they're real. They're not going to sugarcoat anything. They're going to tell you. If they've got a problem with you, you're going to know about it. If you run your mouth, they let you know. Okay, cool. You can run your mouth, but I'm going to smack you in the face when I see you. They'll tell you that. Most fighters might say that in their dressing room, but then they'll go out and put on this act for the cameras. Oh man, I respect him. This and that.

No, man. You know damn well the Diaz Brothers will fight you right there on the spot. It doesn't matter who it is. They'll fight anybody, and I like that. That's just what I grew up with. In most of California that's the way it is. You're running your mouth? You said what you had to say? Okay, now we fight. We're going to handle this. We're going to settle this. That's the attitude that they have.

Kurt Pellegrino (UFC Fight Night 13): They have it right. They're so smart. This isn't a game, this is a fight. Like, you contracted me to beat you up. You accepted to fight me, therefore you're saying that you could beat me up. So you give Nate a fight like Conor McGregor? I was like, this is the biggest shit-show we're about to watch. He's going to beat the shit out of Conor McGregor. And he did. That's what happened. Conor finally met someone who he couldn't bully, someone who didn't give a shit about whatever he was saying.

The best shit-talker in the game is Nate —€” and he don't even talk shit.

Marcus Davis (UFC 118): I thought it was the dumbest thing when I saw all of this unfolding. For McGregor, I thought it was the dumbest thing to pick that fight. Couldn't have picked a worse fight and I was telling everyone. All of my friends, I'd go, he's going to get smoked. And they were all like ‘what? No way!' And I'd go, dude, he's going to get smoked. Nate's the bigger guy. The only thing Diaz needs to do is sharpen his sword. That's it. You don't fall out of shape, how great of shape he's in.

I think people look at him and they see some dope-smoking punk kid who thinks he's tough. They look at him and they sum him up like that. And they're wrong. When you hear him say, ‘yeah, ninja shit, I'm going to do ninja shit' —€” he says things like that and people laugh and say, ‘oh, this kid is stupid.' They're getting pulled in. When you meet that Diaz, I think you're meeting a car salesman. I don't think he's acting in some of those circumstances, I think that's just him. But that is not who he is as a fighter. If you think you're facing just some punk uneducated kid, you're not going to be fighting some punk uneducated kid with no skillset once you're in the ring. You're fighting a world-class athlete, and if you're not prepared —€” if you haven't prepared specifically, tailor-made your gameplan to fight Nate Diaz —€” you're going to get smoked. Just like Diaz with his blunts, he's going to smoke you.

Edward Cao


Benson Henderson (UFC on FOX: Henderson vs. Diaz): Whenever you talk about technique, and someone is supposed to throw in a traditional way —€” a one-two, or they're supposed to bounce a certain way, a traditional way —€” and you get somebody who does things different, it can throw off opponents so much.

He doesn't throw his jab the way everyone else throws their jab, he throws it at a different angle. He throws it weird. He throws it like this. That difference can be the difference maker. That difference can make people great, or get them beat up real bad. Normally, at the higher levels, guys end up making their differences work for them and it leads them to be great fighters.

"That difference can make people great, or get them beat up real bad. Normally, at the higher levels, guys end up making their differences work for them and it leads them to be great fighters."—Benson Henderson

Markham: Richard Perez, the Diaz Brothers' boxing coach, has done a great job with those kids. As awkward as their style is, as unorthodox as it is, it works. I mean, Ali did so many things wrong, but they worked for Ali. This works for these two. It sets this pace. They have the length, they have the endurance to come back with three or four punches every time.

That cadence is what sets them apart, and their endurance behind that cadence. They set this rhythmic pace where you would think a punch thrown at a certain angle shouldn't land with such strength. But it does. It lands just as hard as a perfect hook. That kind of stuff —€” little, little intricacies, little intangibles —€” start getting into your subconscious, whether you know it or not, and you're like, well, that shouldn't have worked. What else is he going to do? That's what is very, very hard to put into words about their fights.

D. Davis: The thing I think Nate does is that he shortens up his jab, and he gets away with that because he's long. A lot of guys, they have their hands next to their face, so then if I throw my jab at you, it's going to take a lot longer coming from my face to land. With him, he's very long, so he can hold his arm out, like halfway between his opponent and him, so then when he throws it, it has half the distance to get there, if that makes sense. So it comes much quicker. So, he might not be as fast as some of these guys, but since his arm is almost already at [his opponent], then he just does a short little pop.

I think that probably throws a lot of guys off because watching him, he doesn't look like a fast guy. But then all of a sudden —€” BANG, BANG —€” he's tagging you with that jab, and I'm sure guys are wondering, how the hell is he hitting me with that thing? A lot of that is because he has a lot of reach, whereas if a guy like me tried that style it wouldn't work because I wouldn't have the right range.

Emerson: It's a huge benefit because that way he doesn't have to sit on his punches and put a lot of weight behind them. He can just kind of touch, touch, touch, touch, touch. Eventually, with those little gloves, they start adding up. Then, every four or five touches, he hits you with a power shot and stuns you, and that's kind of the rhythm when you fight him. Touch, touch, touch, BANG, BANG. Touch, touch, touch, touch, BANG, BANG. He plays with that tempo, and those touch, touch punches are almost effortless. He can do that almost like he's breathing when you're built like he is.

Joe Stevenson (The Ultimate Fighter 9 Finale): There's a famous movie where Woody Harrelson fights Antonio Banderas. They're boxers, and someone says ‘he hits you real soft with his right hand and you think that's all he's got. But then he comes with the left hook.' I know it just sounds like a movie quote, but it's really authentic. They're going to pepper you and you're going to think it's annoying, but it's not the punch you think you can take that knocks you out. It's the punch you don't see that knocks you out —€” and we all know you don't have to have a lot of power to do that.

M. Davis: In my case, it was like I was being shot by a fully automatic BB gun. It was just a barrage that he just kept throwing and throwing and throwing.

You can't dodge something like that. You might be able to dodge a big shotgun. Somebody shoots a shotgun at you, you might be able to get out of the way. But when somebody is shooting a hundred rounds at you in a minute, you're not going to dodge all of those rounds. And that's Diaz. Diaz just lets everything go and overwhelms you and just has belief that he's not going to get tired and you're going to get tired.

Edward Cao

Jim Miller (UFC on FOX: Diaz vs. Miller): Nate is also bigger than he looks. He's just one of those guys who, he's not super built, he's not super muscular, but he's strong. He's a very solid individual.

I remember clinching up with him and he was clearly the bigger man. There are only a handful of guys who I've fought where it just felt like fighting a 170-pounder or a 185-pounder. He was one of those guys. It felt like I was fighting a guy who didn't belong in my weight class.

M. Davis: It's hard to land something really hard and solid on him because nearly everybody who fights him is punching up. If you were punching in a downward way, the energy would go into Diaz's body, therefore he would absorb more of it. But when you're punching in an upward fashion, the energy passes through his head and his head can snap and roll with it. Rolling with punches, that's where it works. When the energy is either going straight in or upward, it's easier to take the blows.

And Nate says it all of the time —€” he's been hit by professional boxers, and MMA fighters hit like sissies. It's true to an extent. The percentage of MMA fighters who really know how to punch is very low compared to a boxer.

So if you beat guys because you overwhelm them, that's not going to work with Diaz because you're not going to be able to stand toe-to-toe with him and think you're both going to just beat the shit out of each other. That's not how it works, and I don't think people give him that credit. I think people look at him and think the guy's got sloppy boxing and he's just a punk who just likes to go in there and throw. And that is one of the best cover-ups Diaz has, because it's a lie. That's not what he is. He is a high-level pugilist. He knows how to use his hands, he's got good accuracy, and he gets in there with guys who are higher level strikers than any other striker MMA fighters are getting in there with.

Miller: That's one of the biggest things I came away from the fight with, that when he throws punches, it's not that he hits hard. He's just very, very planted. And something that happened to me, that's also happened to a couple of the other guys —€” I came in as he threw one of his crosses, where he was completely sitting down on it and solid. It was the hardest I've ever been hit in a fight.

"People watch Mayweather because they want to see him lose. You don’t go watch a Diaz fight because you want to see him lose. You watch a Diaz fight because you want to see a fight."—Joe Stevenson

Gray Maynard (The Ultimate Fighter 5 Semifinals, UFC Fight Night: Maynard vs. Diaz, The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale): I've had three fights with Diaz, and if you're going to beat him, you've got to be prepared to endure. A lot of people are coming in there, and on tape it doesn't really show. Those punches don't look tough, and yeah, maybe one or two of them aren't hard. But it's the constant (pressure). It keeps coming. On tape it's, oh, I can take that, then you get into it and it's a whole different story.

You've got to be prepared to endure and be prepared to go to war.

Stevenson: You can find out the hard way that you're in the wrong sport. Like, a lot of these guys, what's the reason that you fight? You have to ask them. If you ask the Diaz Brothers, what they do and what they're good at? Fight. They love to fight. That's what they do. That's who they are. You'll find out really quick if you're a fighter or not against them. Just because you fight in the UFC, that doesn't mean you're a fighter.

Fighters, real fighters, they know they have a chance no matter what, the whole fight, and they love that. They don't give a fuck. They don't care what's happening. They know in that last minute, that last round, they've still got a chance and they don't care what the other guy thinks, because they know the other guy wants to beat them too. That's a fighter. But a lot of these guys aren't like that at all. A lot of these guys, they just want to have people recognize them in the streets. That's not a fighter. You're not a fighter. ‘I just want to fight because I want to have a good enough career to open up a gym.' No. That's a small business owner. You want to be a small business owner. You don't want to be a fighter. You want to work for yourself. Good for you. I don't like coaching those guys, but I love to fight those guys because I know if I hit that guy, he's going to hurt. And when he hurts, he's going to change.

But Nate, the whole time, he kept coming forward. He lost the fight. I knew I won the fight. There was like 30 seconds left, and he still... kept... coming for me. And I respect that the most, because if I would've given him the opportunity, he would've beaten the shit out of me.

Maynard: What's that torture called, where [water] just keeps dripping on you? Like, it's not just two or three of them, but it'll just keep going and going and going? Chinese water torture. It's just like, alright, I can take that punch, I can take that punch, I can take that... okay... whoa, whoa, whoa, now it's coming. The Diaz Brothers would be good if there were hour-long scraps, you know? They'd win a lot of them.

Junior Assuncao (UFC Fight Night 11): Nate is that kind of guy. You think you're winning. You're like, man, I'm manhandling this guy. Then all of a sudden it's like, oh shit... he's still in it... he's still in it. And he pulls something out of his hat.

Robinson: Both of the Diaz Brothers are like that. They're both, I guess you could say, downhill runners. You know once they get going, that's it. If you give the Diaz Brothers that inch, if you give them any inch, they're going to take that and they're going to run a mile.

When Nate fought Michael Johnson, that's exactly what happened. Michael Johnson came out, he had his gameplan, he had his strategy, and then halfway into the second round, all of a sudden you could see him start to break a little bit and Nate never stopped moving forward. He never stopped coming at him. He never stopped attacking. That's what won him the fight and I think that wins him a bunch of fights.

Henderson: The pace that he keeps up and staying in your face, not allowing you time to catch your breath and —€” whew —€” take a breather and then get back into it, that's a strong part of his game.

I try to keep a high pace too and I think, for sure, you can feel someone breaking. You can feel them slowing down. You can feel them wanting to catch their breath, wanting to move around and take a breather for real quick, then you not giving them that space. You can feel them wear down. You can feel them get tired. You can feel them get sad —€” and I love that feeling. You can physically feel their body get sad. It's awesome.

Markham: It was the fact that Nate [followed up with punches] every time that started bothering me. It wasn't like he did it once and then it stopped and then it settled. It seemed endless and seamless, all at the same time. It was like, alright, he's never going to not come back with combinations, I need more gas in this fight. And that's when I just kind of started looking for a way out —€” which I don't like admitting, but I'm mature enough now. You know, I've got nothing really to hide. I can only help maybe a younger fighter by shedding the most truthful light on the situation, and that is be prepared. Be very, very prepared. Be over-prepared, especially against two guys who do triathlons for fun.

Emerson: We fought two rounds, and I think I won the first round, point-wise. I got off more damage, everything felt good. Then I had to go into the second round with him, and you know the Diaz Brothers —€” they come out the last round like it's the first round. That, I think, is [what stuck with me]. Like, fuck, this guy is not dying. I remember I was trying to fight and every muscle in my body burned so badly. My body just wouldn't do it, what my brain was telling it to do, and he kept landing punches.

He just kind of wore me down and out, he got me tired, and eventually he got a rear-naked choke in the last 15 seconds in the round, but I think I just tapped from exhaustion. I just remember I couldn't do it anymore. It felt like the whole oxygen flow, like every limb of my body was just cut off. Just like he out-worked me so much to where the machine just broke.

M. Davis: People know Diaz is good on the ground, but I don't think people really understand how good he is on the ground. You have to look at him compete at a world class level in these jiu-jitsu competitions. Granted, that's different than MMA, but I've seen him (roll) with guys who all they're known for are being world class jiu-jitsu guys, and I've seen him submit them in these competitions. And he just does those for fun.

Robinson: That's Gracie jiu-jitsu. He's a picture of Gracie jiu-jitsu.

When we were fighting, every time I would transition to something he was one step ahead. I remember thinking that. We were going from one position to the next and he was one step ahead of me. He just kept moving. He just kept rolling. I escaped a triangle, he looked for an omoplata. And he actually had some pretty good leglocks from there, he worked to sweep, he had a really strong arsenal from his back, from his guard. He was just slick and he was long, and more than anything it was his timing and his transitions.

I could never catch back up to him. He was one step ahead of me and he ended up finishing me with a triangle — and I'm a good jiu-jitsu guy.

"Nate's conditioning is unmatchable. Him and his brother could run around the world. Those guys are just freaks, like they live in the Himalayas or something."—Marcus Davis

Emerson: That's where I just panicked, dude. My body was really shut down, and I remember it hurting and burning, and he kept going from one position to the next. As soon as I got free and just managed to get to my side or my back —€” BOOM —€” he had another position. So it was mentally demoralizing more so than anything. He just had me broken mentally, and then fucking that on top of all of the cardio and everything, you're so tired and he's beating you in every position, and he's doing it effortlessly —€” it's like, man, even if I get to escape, he's going to get this. Even if I get up to my feet, he's going to be fresh.

Miller: My gameplan going into the fight was to be mobile. Unfortunately I ended up eating some shots on my way in and hurting myself, so I started standing flat-footed, standing in front of him, and started taking some more punishment. He had me rocked and basically on one leg at that point. So I did what he said after the Conor fight —€” all of these guys try to strike, then they turn into wrestlers. I took a crappy shot. He wrapped me up, and as we rolled, my mouthpiece got pushed out of my mouth and my tongue came out.

He was basically squeezing on the other side of my chin, and I was biting deeply into my tongue —€” and it was not cool.

I'm okay with being in a choke and trying to work my way out of it. But feeling my teeth just, like, going into my tongue was... that's why I tapped. I might've gone out before I did some major damage, but you know how when you bite your lip or bite your tongue, it bleeds for like two seconds? Well my tongue was bleeding for two hours after the fight.

Pellegrino: I prided myself in never getting caught in triangles, so Nate actually helped me. I always tell people, the best lesson in life is losing. When you lose something, you can sit home and bitch about it and cry about it, or... man, I learned an awesome triangle escape that I do specifically because of getting caught in a triangle from Nate.

Honestly, to be honest with you, he was like my teacher because he taught me something so amazing. I got caught and I should've done something. And now, I mean, dudes lock triangles straight up on me and I get out of them nine times out of 10. It's awesome. So Nate taught me a lot. I respect Nate a lot. He beat me at one of the best things I do.

M. Davis: I could only see with one eye halfway through the second round, so it was wear and tear and him just chipping away, slowly chipping away on me until there was nothing left. Then when we hit the ground, I tried to get an underhook in and wall-crawl up the cage, and he jumped to a guillotine. And in my head I was like, you know what, I fought this whole fight like this, I'm not tapping. I'm just not going to do it, so I went out.

Afterward [my eye] just never healed. It paralyzed one of the muscles in my eye, that fight did, and I ended up with what's called Superior Oblique Muscle Palsy and Fourth Cranial Nerve Palsy of the eye. I ended up with a cataract in the eye and I had slight tears in the retina. A lot of people don't know that, but I have permanent double vision in that eye, so if I have both of my eyes open I see two objects because that muscle doesn't work right to stabilize on the one image.

I actually fought after that for years by, you know, lying and cheating on eye exams in order to continue. I knew if they thought I had issues with my eye, I wouldn't be able to fight.


Donald Cerrone* (UFC 141): You see all the movies where people say: don't fight out of anger. They say that for a reason.

Alex Garcia (WEC 12): There are things you should know when you fight. What you're going to do. Your outcomes. You run through scenarios the night before, all of these scenarios running through your head —€” what you're going to do if he does this, what you're going to do if he does that. Only Nate's always talking smack, always flipping people off, getting in their head, and it throws people off their zone.

It's like the rhythm of life, he kind of obstructs it.

D. Davis: Luckily for me, I never got the Stockton Slap.

Garcia: From press conferences to weigh-ins to the fight, it's all a set-up. Little steps. He's taking you out of your zone. Once you're in his zone —€” SLAP!

It's embarrassing. It angers you. It makes you frustrated.

He just fucking slapped me... what the fuck?! What just happened right now? That's when you get angry and you're like, alright, I'm going to get this fucker for slapping me. And sure enough, he slaps you again. It just makes it worse and worse. Instead of sticking to what you trained for and just letting your body react, you're thinking of what to do. And in the cage, you can't think.

Stevenson: It's a genius tactic.

I think fear is our biggest enemy as fighters. We're very insecure people. If you let somebody's trash talk get into your head, then it's going to work.

Edward Cao

Dong Hyun Kim (UFC 125): That was the one thing that really stuck out about the fight itself was that Diaz kept swearing. Usually in fights, guys will say stuff like ‘come on, let's go!' or something like that. But throughout the fight, the whole time, Nate was swearing. And he was insulting me. But since my English isn't that good, I couldn't really completely understand what he was saying. I just knew he was swearing and insulting me. That part of the fight was really strange because, especially for Asian fighters —€” Asian fighters don't do much talking. They don't really swear too much.

So I just wondered why he kept swearing. I was thinking like, why is this guy not concentrating on the fight? I'm concentrating and he's just swearing —€” and you know, I know I'm beating him. He must know he's losing, so why doesn't he concentrate instead of swearing so much? Is he mad that he's losing? Is he complaining because he's losing? So I just figured, ultimately, whatever... he can keep swearing, I'm going to win and make my money and go home.

Gamburyan: Both brothers do it. That's all you got, you little bitch? That's all you got? Fucking bitch. Even if you punch them, they say it. That's all you got, bitch? If you're weak mentally, it will bother a lot of fighters, to be honest.

Stevenson: In our fight, I remember he went: ‘Is that all you got, bitch?! Is that all you got? Come on, fucker!' And I remember being on top of him, and I was hitting him at the time, and I said, ‘Nate, no it's not. This is my gameplan.' And the look on his face —€” he wanted me to talk back, but I was just too easygoing.

You have to look at it in the purest form of: Nate's not a dick. Nate and Nick aren't dicks. They're smart fighters. That's all it boils down to.

Maynard: Our second fight, I got prepared with a whole camp of just, look man, I've got to be in it at all times. Like, if he talks, talk back to him. If he punches, punch back. If he tries to take you down, try to take him down. Being prepared to beat a Diaz is a lot of just being able to kind of match his game, and that's all mental. You know what's coming.

Whatever he gives, whatever he says, you give back harder or stronger or more, because it's going to be a lot. He's going to give a lot.

Markham: If you listen to them, and I mean just the proverbial listen, they're telling you they're never going to stop, that they're going to be there all night. And if you don't have an answer for them, you're going to lose that fight. So I think I can even speak for Donald Cerrone when he said, oh, he got into my head. And then his strikes reinforce that. His strikes do the talking. For all of the talking they do in the cage, his strikes reinforce that and tell you —€” you're not going to win tonight, you're not going to win tonight.

Robinson: I've seen every one of Cowboy Cerrone's fights. Every single one of them since he started, because I was here in Colorado. So I've seen all of his kickboxing fights. I've seen all of his MMA fights. And I've never seen him kind of, choke up, like when he fought Nate. I've never seen Cowboy look like that. That's what the trash talk did. It got in Cowboy's head. Because Cowboy is one of the best fighters that I've ever seen, and Nate just put it on him.

"A lot of guys have a gameplan of how to beat Nick or Nate, but then they get in there and get mad, or they get emotional, or they get frustrated, or they get pissed off, and that gameplan they were going to do goes out the window. "—Benson Henderson

Josh Thomson (UFC on FOX 7): I had guys actually talk shit to me in training. Like, ‘come on, look at this bitch. He's down on the ground, he can't get up.' Or, ‘look, he's just trying to take you down.' Because when I did a grappling match with Nate back in 2007, Nick was the one on the outside of the mat talking a little bit of trash. ‘Don't let him keep doing that stupid wrestling shit! He's just going to keep letting you up and taking you down.' So I knew it was going to be there.

But you know what the worst part is? When you're in a three-round [sparring session], you get a fresh guy every round. So when the fresh guy comes in for the third round, he's fresh and he's the one talking shit to you, and you're like, dude, I just sparred with two guys, I'm exhausted, and now you're going to talk shit to me? That's exactly what goes through your mind though, because Nate's going to do the same thing. That's exactly what's going to happen. Nick and Nate are going to go into the third round, they're going to be fresh. They're going to stay relaxed and composed.

And that's the one thing. No matter how much trash you talk to them in the press conference, at the weigh-ins, right before they announce your names, any of that stuff, they will always stay composed, because they've been doing their trash talking in their gym amongst each other their whole career. They know exactly what they're doing, man.

Henderson: The attitude that he and his brother has, that entire team, how they are down to fight —€” you know they're down to scrap no matter what, no matter when. Twenty-four minutes into a fight that didn't go their way they're saying, ‘hey, let's go. Throw it. Throw down. Let's see what you got.' Just that attitude, I think, shows a lot about who Nate is as a person, how their team is as a whole. I think it's awesome.

Cerrone: That's them. That's them being them.

Henderson: In my experience, Nate was super respectful afterward. He didn't have a problem, I didn't have a problem. He told me good job. All that sort of stuff. I've seen Nick do the same thing, whether he won, whether he lost. Gil, same way. Jake, same way. All of those guys. Their roots are in traditional Brazilian jiu-jitsu and having the respect for their opponents. You guys compete. You try your hardest. You try to beat him up. He tries to beat you up. Afterwards it's like alright, now it is what it is. There are no problems. There are no hard feelings.

If you're a butthead after you win or you're a butthead after you lose, or you're mad about it or you taunt them about it, then that's when you see the other side of them.

Markham: I remember at the weigh-ins, Nate and I didn't shake hands. I put my hand out, he didn't shake it. The next day, after he beat me and the referee had stopped it, the very first thing he did was come over and shake my hand and say, ‘I'm sorry I didn't shake your hand yesterday, man. I was just nervous.'

Then they came into the locker room, him and Nick both, to check on me. Nick patted me on the top of the head, he goes, ‘are you feeling fine?' And I'm like, yeah, I'm good. He's like, ‘good, good, good.' They both bowed to Pat Miletich, my coach. ‘Thank you, sir, it's an honor to meet you.' All of these things. They really are martial artists first, and all that comes with it. Their persona, while it's genuine, it really does come from a good place. Nate does teach kids on the weekends. He's a martial artist and that is our job, to be able to spread the word of jiu-jitsu and martial arts —€” his chosen craft. So there's a lot of kindness when it comes to those two that people don't see.

Cerrone: You know what? As much shit as he talked... I like those guys. I really do. Because there is no front on them at all. What you see is what you (get). Like, if I were to run into the Diaz Brothers out in the street, we are fucking throwing down. And there's no question. That's just who they are. So it's not like they put on this front, this persona that they're big (and) tough.

No, that's who they are. Twenty-four seven. And it's awesome to me.

Edward Cao


Henderson: I think for us as a society, the fight world is a microcosm of the real world. You see a lot of people being fake nowadays. You see girls on Instagram taking 75 selfies, then you see them in real life and they look nothing like that. Just the right angle, the right lighting. The same thing for a lot of stars nowadays. You see them on TV and they act a certain way, they talk a certain way, but in real life they're almost the exact opposite. So for fighters, for the people who enjoy MMA as a sport, I think as a general rule they appreciate realness.

M. Davis: We're at a time, man, we're at a tipping point where you have a country that's filled with nothing but liars. Everybody is a liar. Hillary Clinton, the biggest liar and thief in the world, and I don't think Trump is any better. We live in a time where everybody has no moral integrity. The fabric of the world right now is like you don't know where you stand, you don't know what you can believe, you don't know if somebody is lying to you or not. But you know this: when you see Nate Diaz, he's never changed. He's been a constant. He's not selling you bullshit.

"If you look at the other fighters, they talk a little bit of trash, then the Diaz Brothers start cussing them out and they’re the bad guys. But I don’t think it’s really that way. I think those guys, they’re the real guys. And that’s what I love about them."—Alvin Robinson

Robinson: I think a little part of everybody wants to be like that. You want to be the person who just keeps it real. You want to be you. Everybody wants to just be able to go out and be themselves, but a lot of people don't have the boldness to do it. They're afraid. What if people don't like me? What if I lose? What if this, what if that. The Diaz Brothers couldn't care less what you think about them. They just are who they are, and I think that's part of it. I like that. Man, I wish that I could be like that. And I think that's why they draw in the people.

Miller: Some of the other things that get promoted in this sport, I don't want to do.

There are plenty of times where I would just like to say, yeah, fuck you, and be done with it.

Markham: I am positive that's why the public loves them so much. They deliver, but they're always honest through it all. They are who they are and they deliver on their promises, which is, I'm going to be that person in the ring. You've heard from Nate. He doesn't assure a victory, but he says, I'm going to go out there and it's going to be a gunfight. I'm ready to be kill or be killed. And he's serious.

The world appreciates honestly. And there is never a dishonest moment with them. That consistency is unparalleled.

Emerson: I mean, they were in this when there wasn't any money, and they fought the same way back then that they do now. They've fought their way, literally, to get what they have, and what a rad story that is. You want to be a part of that, you know? You just have to respect the guys who have come up through the ranks fighting tooth and nail, physically fighting to keep food on the table and money in the bank.

Nate has grown as an athlete and as a fighter, but he still has that same ‘fuck you' attitude. Fuck the world. It's that —€” me and my team versus everyone else —€” which is what you got to have in this industry. People read that. They see that. So, man, whoever is a real true fan of this sport has to be a true fan of the Diaz Brothers.

Henderson: When we got together here at The MMA Lab, when we were bringing a team together, we thought about how we wanted to be. For me, that's one thing that stuck in my head. I wanted to be like that. I wanted to have actual brothers who I could trust and who have my back through thick and thin. And if I need to hide a body, I know I can turn to these guys. If they need to hide a body, I won't even ask questions. Like, alright, where's the shovel? Let's go. Having that with your training partners is huge. It gives you a whole different level —€” a sense of trust, faith in each other, extra push, drive, determination, all of that stuff.

"The Diaz Brothers have the most incredible following. Almost as incredible as the Conor McGregor following. The cult is unbelievable. They just tell me all the time, ‘he’ll beat your ass again."—Donald Cerrone

Hermes Franca (WEC 24): You know they'll always have their partners' backs. Remember when they brawled outside of the cage? I think it was at Jake Shields versus Toquinho (at WSOF 22), and they were fighting Khabib Nurmagomedov over there. I was in Russia last year and I was talking with Khabib, and you know Khabib was like, man, I hate them. I'm going to beat their ass. I hate Nate Diaz. They both are punks. I was just laughing.

Emerson: It's been said before, but there are a lot of pussies in this sport. And it's true. Those guys get found out soon enough. But Nate and Nick, they're not. They don't fall under the pussy category. They're fighter's fighters. These guys have been fighting a long time, they're not worried about weight class. They're not worried about short notice fights. They're not afraid of getting in fights outside of the ring. Remember, this is fighting. It's not golf. It's not like other sports. It takes a twisted athlete to even get involved in this kind of stuff.

Maynard: They deserve respect whether you're a fan, whether you're an opponent, whether you're a teammate, whatever it is. They've put in the time training. You know that they've put in their time training. You know that they bring it every time. It doesn't matter what punch you throw at them, it doesn't matter how hard you hit them, they bring it in there every time and that's a true pro, you know? And they've never quit. They're always in it to beat a guy, and you've got to respect that.

Assuncao: I've heard Nate say in an interview that all of his fans were generated from nothing but fighting, that he created fans in an organic way. Nothing was [artificial], if that makes sense. Nothing was forced. He didn't buy Twitter followers. Everything was just straight up fighting. That isn't easy, but it pays off, and I think as humans we appreciate that. I do. I appreciate when somebody is sincere, when somebody is being truthful, and they don't even need to talk much. They're just so emotional and open when they compete, and that's very motivating because people know: I need to stay home tonight to watch this guy fight.

There are so many shows nowadays, I don't watch every show. I'm a fighter, I'm a veteran, and I don't watch every event. But you know that when Nate Diaz fights, everybody is going to watch.

Thomson: The fact that they're fighting their butts off, and they're kind of fighting against the establishment, which is realistically what they're doing, and they're standing their ground —€” I mean, their fans love that. They posted some video a little while back of him smacking Dana, and man, you could just tell. You could just tell his fans were just soaking that stuff up, man. Just slurping it up. They loved it.

Henderson: Being on a bigger stage, a bigger spotlight, being successful, and then having your opponent turn you into the hero while he plays the heel a little bit —€” like what happened with Conor —€” I think that definitely helped Nate too.

[He became] sort of the anti-hero. The bad guy. The bad good guy. The Punisher type character. He's not a true superhero like Superman. He's not one of those guys who is a stand-up, do-right boy scout. He's a bad good guy, a good bad guy. He does what he has to do to get things done and he does them in his own way. I think Conor, with the way he acts, sometimes can make people feel a certain way about him.

And it ended up working out pretty well for Nate.


Thomson: When the UFC tries to tell you, or Dana tries to tell you that Nate Diaz doesn't move the needle —€” bullcrap. That's a bunch of crap. It's a way, a ploy, to get them to pay less money.

Have some integrity, fight for what you're worth. And the thing is, Nate has.

Robinson: I've always had a good relationship with Dana White, and Dana White has always been cool to me, but for him to say about Nate that he wasn't a draw and ‘you're not a needle mover' —€” that's a slap in Nate's face.

I think it's hard for fighters, like him, who speak out. He just says the things on his mind. If he's mad at the UFC, if he's mad at Dana White, he's going to speak his mind. You've got to kind of keep that on down low. You've got to keep that under control, and I think that's what's hurt him a little bit, that he's spoken out about his pay. That's a bad thing to do. A lot of times when you speak out and say, you know, I'm not happy with the money I'm getting. I'm not happy, I'm not appreciated —€” well shoot, man, we're not going to give you the push. Why would we give you a push?

Assuncao: Fighters, we are very disposable.

You go out there and you lose a couple of fights, it doesn't look good, you don't take the right approach, and they just put you on ice. That's what they did to Nate for a long time. Nate is one of the best in the world. He's been one of the best in the world for a long time.

Edward Cao
"Nate should've been as big as he is now. He should've had that publicity and that respect before."—Jim Miller

Miller: Honestly, my opinion, I'm a fan of the sport. I'll watch fights to watch the technique, to watch everything that goes on. I don't really care about what's being said before a fight. I'm not into that. I've never been into that. And Nate, he's always had the skillset. He's always had the skillset that he's fun to watch because of what he's capable of, aside from the talking and stuff like that. I think it was just a matter of, he was caught in the middle of a tiff and he wasn't getting marketed.

That's just the way that it is, because, I mean, he should've been as big as he is now. He should've had that publicity and that respect before. He did a little bit here and there —€” he'd go up and down —€” but it really comes down to that. Basically, airtime. Once he got it, he definitely took advantage of the opportunity. I'm glad to see that it has kind of really exploded for him.

Robinson: I think that most of the fighters knew what he was saying was right —€” that he needed to get more money, that he should've gotten the push, that he should've gotten the spotlight. But what are you going to say? Nobody else can say anything, but he was absolutely right and I think that the UFC is seeing that now.

Markham: He deserves what is coming to him. There are certain situations where it just doesn't behoove you to play ball, to be a yes man, when you could just say please, just look at the paper. The paper speaks for itself. I move the needle as well. I am Nate Diaz. I have a legion of fans —€” the Diaz Brothers have the most loyal fans in the world —€” and this is what I bring to the table. And I win. And you get consistently good fights out of me. So please pay me accordingly. Don't pay me because I'm Johnny Come Lately. I'm Johnny Come Always. I've been here for 10 years doing this.

Him taking that stance, him in particular —€” you know, some guys I wouldn't get onboard with. I would say hey, listen, Dana has been good to you. The UFC has been good to you. But I believe in this particular case, Nate is more deserving than most fighters.

Miller: He was there on that cusp of being champion forever, and look at it —€” as it turns out, it's a fight two weight classes above his opponent's weight class, a weight class above even his own, that brings Nate out in this huge... not really coming out party, but this huge tipping point of his career, leverage and all of this stuff with the UFC. And it's crazy. It really is crazy that it's some superfight, that really only made sense because it was on short notice, that does that for him.

Robinson: He started off the same way we all started off, you know? We would've fought for free back in the day, when the sport wasn't as big as it now. He's getting older now, and I'm sure he's starting to see the effects of getting punched in the head. I mean, how many wars has Nate been in? And he's gotta be starting to see, okay man, this is taking a toll on me. My body hurts. I've got this many concussions. Yeah, I could keep fighting, but what happens if I can't? What happens if it ends tomorrow? What do I have to show for this?

Like he told Conor, he said, ‘come talk to me in 10 years, let's see where you're at.' It's not like Nate has been taking easy fights. I don't think the guy has ever had an easy fight. He's taken on every person who they've put in front of him, even in that house, The Ultimate Fighter house. Look at the guys he was in the house with. Gray Maynard. Manny Gamburyan. I mean, Rob Emerson, Joe Lauzon, Cole Miller, Corey Hill. He had all of these guys in that house. He came out on top, and then they just started throwing him to the wolves, man. He's been fighting all the top guys. He's been in the game this whole time, and I think that's the hardest thing.

"Nate’s got them by the short hairs at this point, because that’s the fight everybody wanted to see."—Marcus Davis

Maynard: You look at his career and he would win a little, but then a guy would put together a good gameplan and beat him. Maybe not the prettiest, but would beat him. And you know MMA, if you lose it's, ah, he's done. Or, ah, he's easy to beat. People will just capitalize on that loss. Everybody is trying to get this hero who is unbeatable, who can't be stopped, and I mean, this isn't a team sport where you can be a hero and blame [a loss] on a whole team. Like, ah, the team had a bad game, but he did great. This is real. You're going up against another guy and there is a lot of time between (fights). It's not like, alright, I'm going to compete on a Tuesday, lose, and then I come back on a Friday.

You have to wait, and people just eat it up for months and months about how you lost. And I get it. What draws a lot of people to the sport is to be able to talk about that and the build up, like, oh, let's see how he comes back. But these are real people who are going in there, and you're talking about maybe three times a year. And there are just days where a guy is better. There are days where a guy catches you and you do lose.

Emerson: The guy gave a decade of his life. Like, a decade at the highest levels of the sport —€” you better see a million dollars. This is what we're doing with our lives. It's not like you can just quit after a decade and just start something new. Your blood, your sweat, your tears, your body, your mind —€” you give yourself. You invest so much of yourself into this sport, into the fans, and we don't ask for much. So man, I'm super stoked for Nate. It's great to see him getting decent paydays. He gave his life to this, it's nice to see the sport give him something back in return.

Thomson: Think about it. He was the draw on that Ultimate Fighter. It was him and Gray Maynard. Those two guys. The hype was all about those two guys when it came to that show. I like Manny Gamburyan and those guys, but you go on all of the old blogs and forums, it was all about Gray Maynard —€” who was just a freaking monster athlete —€” and then there was Nate Diaz, who was Nick's brother, boxing style, scrapper. They were the two biggest names on that show, and the UFC made millions off of them.

That's exactly what Nate is saying. It's just reimbursement for all of that money that I made you when I did The Ultimate Fighter, all of the fights I gave you before that, after that, where you made millions, and then you only paid me five-and-five or 10-and-10.

M. Davis: Especially in his situation, he got screwed. The best thing that ever happened to me was after The Ultimate Fighter, they cut me. So when I came back they had to renegotiate my contract. So you've got to remember this, when I fought Diaz —€” okay, Diaz beat me. Diaz beat me, and I made more money losing to him than he did beating me. I saw it. I saw the numbers. And that only happened because they cut me from my contract from The Ultimate Fighter.

They all got screwed, man. They were all stuck on that 10-and-10, 12-and-12, 14-and-14, going up by $2,000.

Maynard: This is a hard sport to understand what you're bringing in. I mean, Conor is really good at kind of understanding that, and he knows he has a whole country behind him. But a lot of the guys who haven't been in the limelight enough, it's hard to understand all of that stuff. Do you want to put your time in training or do you want to put your time in trying to understand how many pay-per-view buys (you personally sold)? It's tough to focus on how much, how much, how much all of the time, especially when you're just trying to focus on putting your time into getting the belt.

Markham: I think everybody in the UFC —€” and I say this with nothing but respect —€” looks at Conor being the only needle mover in that fight. It was the fact that Nate took that fight, on as short of notice that he did, and he had that legion of fans, people who wanted to see him win, and it became a compelling fight instantly. Had anyone else taken that fight, I don't think we would've seen the numbers that we did. But it's Nate Diaz.

The Diaz Brothers are superstars in their own right.

"It’s cool for a guy like me. I never ended up ever making it to the UFC. I got too old and my body too beat up. But to see a guy like him who I fought, still fighting at the highest level and being successful? I’m always cheering for him."—Dennis Davis

M. Davis: I think it comes down to the UFC itself. This happened because that fight made it happen. I don't think the UFC saw any value in really putting any money behind promoting Diaz like they have everybody else, because they didn't look at him like there could possibly anyone who would like him, because he's not likeable in their opinion. He doesn't look like the all-state college guy or the pretty athlete guy. He looks like what he acts like, like he's possibly a street thug, and when he opens his mouth he talks like a street thug.

But they could've embraced that and taken that and pushed it. Don't try to change the person. Take those things and make them even bigger, and that's what they should've done with Diaz long ago.

Maynard: He's got the name now. He's got people all over him. He put himself in a good spot and you've got to run with it, whatever it is, even though Diaz should've been big a long time ago. There are a lot of other guys in MMA who capitalized on more of the media —€” and they were pretty good, don't get me wrong, they put in the time and they were pretty good —€” but they got their name quicker by doing all of that stuff... which, that's a job too.

But, you know, I'm glad that he has all of this stuff that he does now because you want people who are real, who do train hard and do compete hard and who do care about this, who do care about the sport. He's a nice guy outside of competing against him. He takes care of his mom, you know? He takes this as a job, he's a pro and I'm glad. I'm happy. I'm happy about all of it.

Robinson: He's one of the few guys I've lost to who I'm rooting for. I watch him fight and I'm still rooting for him, I'm still a big fan of him and Nick.

Assuncao: He's always going to have someone here cheering for him, that's for sure.

Pellegrino: I root for Nate every fight. I tweeted to him that he's the man, for Christ's sake.

Cerrone: Both of them. I've got nothing but respect for the both of them.

I would have a drink with them (right) now.

Henderson: I'm most excited to see a veteran, a true veteran of the sport, finally get his due. Finally get what he deserves.

People say they understand, but even the ones who say they understand don't really understand how hard it is to truly stay on the top —€” just to not even stay on the top, but to stay at your best. To stay relevant. Maybe your best is at 80-percent and you're not the best in the world, but you're still pretty darn good. To stay at your best, to try to get a little bit better everyday, a little bit better your next fight —€” it's super hard. It's one of the most difficult things. It's why you see so many guys who are flashes in the pan. You see guys who are a bright star for three fights or two fights, one year or two years, and then they kind of go away.

So I think Nate bringing light to the situation is definitely a good thing. It's only positive. It only benefits fighters in general down the road, five years from now, 10 years from now, all of the guys who stand up for what we deserve, stand up for the things fighters should probably already have.

Thomson: Any fighter who's jealous about it —€” you guys, all you're doing is just stepping on your own dicks. You have to grateful that these guys are starting to pull in the money that they're pulling in.

Look, Nate got put into a situation. Had he lost, Nate would've just been thrown to the side. They would've never cared. They'd keep paying him his 50-and-50, or whatever it is that he's making, his 60-and-60 or whatever, and barely getting by and trying to make a living. That's how it would've been. But then the fact that he won, now it just leads into the next big fight.

Nate just got lucky in this scenario. He got lucky in a scenario where one trash talker talked trash to the wrong motherfucker.

Miller: I'm happy to see him pull in enough that he should be able to be smart with it and set himself up for his next chapter in life.

It's good to see somebody get rewarded for having done all of that, having fought all of the guys he's fought on the cards that he's fought, and to finally be getting paid in a way that he should be getting paid. That we should be getting paid. It's a tough business to be in, because you never know when it's going to end, you never know when you're done.

Once you spend all of that blood, once you spend all of that time, it's hard to stay above the curve —€” because two hiccups in a row, three hiccups in a row, and you're cut because you're getting paid too much money. So it's tough. It really is. In my opinion, there should be something. There should be, like, a set reward for lasting 10 fights in the UFC. Like a jump in pay scale or something like that. A benefits package or something, because it is difficult to stay, and like people have said, most guys wash out after two or three fights. So to be hitting 15, 20 fights in the UFC, maybe you didn't have that opportunity to be champion, but to have that staying power is something special.

You've promoted enough fights. You've been on enough cards. You've sold enough cards. That should be worth more than a couple grand raise between contracts.

Robinson: That's why this fight with Conor... it's huge, man.

Because, I mean, Nate is set. He finally got his big payday. He's a superstar. If the UFC parted ways with Nate Diaz right now, he's a superstar.

Henderson: I'm super excited for him. I know he's had a couple contract disputes. He had some ups and downs, switched weight classes, went back down a weight class. But most of the guys, most of the fighters, we all know each other. We all train. We all know guys who know all the other guys. We see the good side, the bad side. We hear about the good side, the bad side. And I hear pretty much nothing but good things about Nate. He's a good guy.

Fighting still is not a super lucrative sport, so if you want to make money by doing MMA you probably want to look into another career choice. Go be an investment banker or something like that. But hopefully you can get to the stage where you can make some real money, and hopefully you can get to the point where you can be a positive impact on as many people as possible.

And right now, with his name and everything, the way things are going for him, Nate Diaz could draw a pretty penny. That's for sure.

All interviews edited for clarity and concision. Excerpts for Donald Cerrone transcribed from the Joe Rogan Experience.

About the Author

Shaheen Al-Shatti is the Deputy Editor for MMA Fighting, where he leads the podcasts and features divisions. Follow him at @shaunalshatti. Check out his other SB Nation Longform pieces: 'The India Diaries', 'The Silva Sixteen', 'Ghosts of the Desert', 'The League of Supermen', 'The Night We Faced Aldo', 'Until the Last Light Leaves London', 'In the Shadow of the Monster', Heart of the 209, and Ballad of an Irish Son.

Edward Cao is a Los Angeles-based artist and illustrator whose art has been exhibited in galleries across the U.S. and internationally. His commercial work is featured on books, album covers and apparel. His past work for SB Nation Longform can be seen on 'The Night We Faced Aldo'. View his portfolio at and follow him at @edwardcao.