Nate Diaz has emerged rough Stockton, Calif. to contend for a UFC title (Yahoo! Sports)


  • Share on Tumblr
  • submit to reddit

Nate Diaz is a professional athlete in that he earns money to compete in sports, but really he's not so much an athlete as he is a fighter.

From the time of his youth in the hardscrabble neighborhoods of Stockton, Calif., to Saturday's UFC lightweight title fight against Benson Henderson at Key Arena in Seattle, Diaz, 27, has had to fight for everything he's gotten in life.

Stockton is one of the toughest towns in the country, and Diaz is one of the toughest guys in Stockton. That toughness came, in part, out of necessity. He grew up in the roughest area of town in a home with curtains instead of doors to keep the world out, with a father who was rarely around and with a mother who had to work multiple jobs to provide.

"There wasn't a lot going on for me [other than fighting]," Diaz said.

His older brother, Nick, turned pro as a mixed martial arts fighter in 2001, when Nate was 16. He used Nate as his sparring partner, a move that toughened the younger Diaz for the career that was to come.

He's literally fought his way to the top, beating the likes of Melvin Guillard, Takanori Gomi, Donald Cerrone and Jim Miller en route to the title shot against Henderson on Saturday in the main event of UFC on Fox 5.

And though he's had nothing but flattering things to say about Henderson – Diaz called Henderson a "great fighter" no less than eight times in 12 minutes during an interview with Yahoo! Sports – he also noted that there is a substantial difference between them.

"I have a lot of respect for Benson Henderson and what he has done in his career," Diaz said. "But he's what I call a round-winner. That's not me. I am a fighter."

Few are as well-conditioned as Diaz, who runs triathlons as a hobby. Saturday's bout will be his first 25-minute match, and usually the length of a title match is one of the champion's edges against a first-time challenger.

No one who knows the fighters, though, thinks the 25-minute length is going to be a factor at all. Diaz is the type of guy who will be going as hard in the 25th minute as he is in the first.

It's that fighting spirit which drives him and it is that tenacity that thrust him into the spot as the No. 1 contender in the UFC's deepest division. He made himself into a title contender through sheer force of will, rebounding in a remarkable manner to a surprisingly lopsided defeat.

Competing at welterweight, Diaz met hot prospect Rory MacDonald in one of the key bouts at UFC 129 in April 2011. MacDonald won the fight after, as Henderson notes, "kind of rag-dolling" Diaz in the second half of the fight.

It was a stunningly one-sided defeat.

Even more stunning, perhaps, is how quickly Diaz turned his career around. He dropped back to lightweight after losing to MacDonald and met Gomi, a noted striker, at UFC 135. Gomi was on the back side of his career, and it wasn't outlandish to believe that Diaz should have won easily.

The manner of the win, though, is what raised eyebrows. Diaz out-struck Gomi, using his boxing to set up a submission victory. Diaz essentially beat Gomi at his own game.

"This kid has really gotten so much better and become an amazing fighter," UFC president Dana White said. "His boxing is now one of his strengths."

Part of that improvement comes from training sessions with boxing superstar Andre Ward, the unified super middleweight champion. Ward is arguably the best technical boxer in the world and, as Diaz notes, training with that kind of talent forces one to improve.

But the relentlessly loyal Diaz gives most of the credit for his striking improvement to coach Richard Perez.

Judging by the development of the boxing skills of both Diaz brothers, Perez obviously is an elite coach. But Nate's improvement is also a tribute to his own perseverance and commitment.

Since he was 17 and an amateur who was very green, Diaz trained boxing year round with the finest fighters in the Bay Area.

"We don't play around and just box anybody who walks into the gym," Diaz said. "We work with legitimate professional boxers who can help us improve. I've been doing that since I was 17 and it makes a difference."

Whether it makes a difference in Saturday's bout remains to be seen. Diaz has his plan, but he isn't particularly concerned about one aspect of the game more than others.

The goal isn't to submit Henderson or outbox him or anything other than win.

"It's a fight, man, and that's what I'm going to do: fight," Diaz said. "I don't worry about all that stuff. I just go and fight."

Other popular content on the Yahoo! network:
Birth mother still trying to connect with new 49ers starting QB Colin Kaepernick
A-Rod's hip injury reveals fragile state of Yankees' aging roster
Y! News blog: Government promises world won't end on Dec. 21

view original article >>

Related News

  • 29 days ago
  • 85 views

Money remains the major hangup for the boys from Stockton, CA. After UFC lightweight Myles Jury took to Twitter Sunday in an attempt to lure Nate Diaz back into action, the younger Diaz brother again responded only with gripes about his current contract with the promotion. .@NateDiaz209 I respect u a lot, BUT... I confirmed to fight you & have been waiting on you for a week. Are we getting after it or what? — Myles Jury (@FuryJury) June 29, 2014 Bout my money #breakbread till then don't call .. more

  • 29 days ago
  • 557 views

Covey leader calling Diaz ... talk to me Nate. Let's do the limbo! Surging Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweight prospect Myles Jury has been offered a fight against former division number one contender Nate Diaz, a 155-pound showdown he gladly accepts. But negotiating with Diaz, as Anthrax so eloquently puts it, is like clapping with one hand. According to Fury, there hasn't been a peep from the 209. .@NateDiaz209 I respect u a lot, BUT... I confirmed to fight you & have been waiting more

  • 29 days ago
  • 53 views

Accepting the bout was apparently the easy part. Getting his opponent to follow through on it seems to be the real challenge.Filed under: News, UFC more

  • 28 days ago
  • 57 views

Nick and Nate Diaz appear willing to continue their battle with the UFC over fighter pay as long as it takes after both used social media to make their continued complaints clear. Nick Diaz and brother Nate Diaz are in a very unique situation in the modern mixed martial arts world. Where the UFC has failed in creating compelling, high drawing stars, the Diaz brothers--Nick especially--remain "mainstream attractions." This may be in large part due to antics that some find tasteless or objectionab more

  • 29 days ago
  • 16 views

Accepting the bout was apparently the easy part. Getting his opponent to follow through on it seems to be the real challenge.Filed under: News, UFC more

  • 26 days ago
  • 57 views

That rumored Myles Jury vs. Nate Diaz fight won't be going down. But the undefeated lightweight will still tangle with a fighter known for throwing down. The 12-0 Jury will meet former PRIDE lightweight champion Takanori Gomi on the Sept. 20 UFC Fight Night card in Saitama, Japan. FOXSports.com initially reported the news of the bout on Wednesday night. The San Diego-based Jury is 14-0, with his last five victories coming in the UFC. He has 11 wins via finish, and his last victory was a one-side more

  • 26 days ago
  • 14 views

Myles Jury has been vocal in his criticism of Nate Diaz this week, but it doesn't seem he's had to wait long to find out who his next opponent will be. After calling out Nate Diaz earlier this week for not signing to a supposed fight offer, Myles Jury (14-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) will apparently face another veteran of the division instead. According to Fox Sports, the Alliance MMA product is being lined up to face former PRIDE FC lightweight champion Takanori Gomi (35-9 (1 NC) MMA, 4-4 UFC) at the Saita more

  • 14 days ago
  • 75 views

Nate Diaz took a shot at a certain cowboy for 'sucking too much UFC d***'. He hardly uses social media as much as other fighters, but it's always interesting when Nate Diaz bitches rants on twitter. This time, the blunt of it is targeted at his former opponent in Donald Cerrone, who fights tomorrow against Jim Miller at UFC Fight Night: Atlantic City. Here's what Diaz had to say: Some people just suck way too much #UFCdick ... An they where cowboy hats — Nathan Diaz (@NateDiaz209) July 15, 2014 more

  • 13 days ago
  • 58 views

The latest chapter in the ongoing saga between UFC president Dana White and the Diaz brothers is in the books. Nate Diaz, the lightweight contender who has been sitting on the sidelines since last fall, took to Twitter on Monday to take a pointed, if not necessarily erudite, swipe at the UFC and Donald Cerrone. "Some people just suck way too much UFC d--," Diaz tweeted. "An they where cowboy hats." On Tuesday, White used his platform on UFC.com to swing back at Stockton native. "Nate can do what more