Nate Diaz is back in the Octagon years after the two most lucrative fights of his career, and Anthony Pettis’ jiu-jitsu coach Daniel Wanderley believes that the nature of his animosity towards “Showtime” is jealousy.
Diaz started aiming for a fight with Pettis after he watched “Showtime” successfully defend his UFC lightweight title with a guillotine choke over his teammate Gilbert Melendez in 2014. From that point on, Wanderley says, Diaz took issue with Pettis’ success as a UFC star.
“He’s a bit jealous. I think that’s it,” Wanderley told MMA Fighting ahead of Saturday night’s UFC 241 in Anaheim. “He said in a recent interview that Anthony came out of nowhere and all of a sudden he was on the Wheaties box. I think it’s some jealousy there, him being at the top and Nate working hard for years. Anthony came from the bottom just like Nate, he came from nowhere. He’s always on the top, he became champion, and I think that’s what Nate can’t swallow. He couldn’t become champion at 155.
“Nate’s been talking crap for a long time, saying that Anthony didn’t look him in the eyes,” he continued, “But the truth is, when we got to the Ultimate Fighter we spent six weeks there and we never had any problems with Nate. After that, he would show us the finger whenever he saw us and talk trash online. That’s what motivated Anthony to take this fight. It’s a bit personal between them. Anthony wants to show him it’s time. He asked for it and now he’s gonna get it.”
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu coach was a member of Pettis’ coaching staff on The Ultimate Fighter reality show five years ago, and cornered Carla Esparza in all her TUF bouts before winning the strawweight championship. Wanderley says the relationship between his team and Diaz’s crew during the TV show was good, but it all changed after Pettis and Melendez met in the Octagon.
“Melendez and Jake Shields are really nice guys, they all talked to us on the show, except for (Diaz) and Kron (Gracie),” Wanderley said. “Kron doesn’t talk to anyone. Didn’t talk to me, for example. They had that good and respectful rivalry with no animosity. Nate even came to talk to me after the show.
“I think Nate was a bit upset with that fight with Melendez and wanted to pay back the loss. That’s why he started talking trash at Anthony online, calling him out on interviews.”
After making a career at lightweight, Pettis made a huge impact in the welterweight division by taking out Stephen Thompson by second-round knockout in March. Even though Wanderley doesn’t expect a win over Diaz to move him up in the rankings, his stock would definitely rise given Diaz’s star power in the sport following the two bouts with Conor McGregor.
The 170-pound weight class is currently stacked with a long list of deserving title contenders, but Wanderley wouldn’t be surprised to see Pettis jump the line for a title bout on short notice since he doesn’t cut much weight to fight at 170 pounds.
“Anthony doesn’t need to cut weight to fight at welterweight, he can take the call on one or two weeks’ notice and still make weight,” Wanderley said. “The fact that he’s a former lightweight champion helps him, too. It’s a matter of being on the right time at the right time to jump on the opportunity.”
Wanderley has been working on Pettis’ jiu-jitsu for years at Roufusport, but doesn’t expect his protégé to go for a takedown against fellow-black belt Diaz in Anaheim.
“They have similar styles, they both have great jiu-jitsu, they are finishers, but they usually only go to the ground when their opponents go for a takedown,” Wanderley said. “They both prefer to fight on the feet, and that’s how I expect this fight to play out. We’re betting on a knockout win for Anthony.”