Nick Maximov has high prize for two of his biggest mentors.
The protegé of Nick and Nate Diaz recently improved his professional MMA record to 8-0 with a split decision win over Punahele Soriano in the co-main event of UFC Vegas 47 this past Saturday night, with Nate in the APEX cheering his fighter on.
Maximov looks up to the highly popular brotherly duo and hopes to someday live up to the expectations they have set in MMA, and for the 24-year-old prospect.
“I think Nick and Nate are arguably the greatest martial artists to ever grace the octagon,” Maximov said on The MMA Hour. “Nick won every title if you think about it, he won Strikeforce, he beat Takanori Gomi when he was the man, Elite XC, I think Nick was the man. So if they tell me to do something, I’m gonna do it.”
Maximov began training at the Nick Diaz Academy when he was an early teenager after finding martial arts through a marathon of movies starring icons from Bruce Lee to Jackie Chan.
After seeing the Diaz Brothers compete, he knew being around them and their scrappy style was the right move to make to take his journey to a different level.
“I was a big Nate fan, but I was a really big Nick fan,” Maximov explained. “I liked Nate, but I really liked Nick. It was just something about his style that I really liked — just his fighting style, I didn’t really care what they said in interviews and stuff like that — I just liked how they fight. It really just spoke to me how they do jiu-jitsu, how they box, all of that stuff.
“It was pretty rough at first. You get beat up, no doubt. I see black belts come in all the time and some days they get tapped out by blue belts. It’s a hardcore gym, but I like it because it’s a martial artist gym. We train martial arts, not just fighting, it’s all about martial arts. So it’s a deeper philosophy than just fighting.”
Following a successful octagon debut against Cody Brundage at UFC 266 in September, Maximov was elevated to a higher spot on the main card. After a competitive first round where he ate a big knee, Maximov’s wrestling and grappling became the difference over the final 10 minutes of the fight to secure the victory.
Of course, there’s always advantages to fighting inside the APEX, especially when fighters like Nate Diaz and Gilbert Melendez are in the small space shouting out instructions from the audience.
“I heard him in the back and each round he got closer and closer, and eventually in the third round he was damn near in the cage with me,” Maximov said of Diaz. “Like he was about to hop in and fight this dude for me. It was cool.
“Gilbert was there, too, and he’s a really good coach. He might be a better coach than he is a fighter.”