nick-diaz-31.jpg(This story appeared in today’s edition of USA TODAY.)

People say a lot of things about Nick Diaz.

Diaz is a thug and a pothead. Diaz is the last honest and genuine fighter in a world full of made-for-TV phonies. Maybe it’s all true; maybe not.

On a news media call last week, his opponent in UFC 158 (Saturday, 10 p.m. ET, pay-per-view), welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre (23-2 MMA, 17-2 UFC), called Diaz an “uneducated fool.” On the same call, Diaz (26-8 MMA, 7-5 UFC) likened himself to a “superhero coming in with the anti-bulls—.”

UFC President Dana White has never disputed Diaz’s talent as a fighter. But after the UFC welterweight’s first stint with the organization ended in 2006, White wondered aloud whether the scrappy kid from Stockton, Calif., would ever learn to “play the game,” even a little bit.

“You have to follow certain rules and guidelines,” White said in 2010. “The last time Nick Diaz was in the UFC, he got into a fistfight at the hospital with the guy he fought (in UFC 57). You can’t do that kind of stuff.”

But Diaz did. It’s part of his legend, how he started a brawl in a hospital hallway with Joe Riggs, whom he had lost to in three rounds hours earlier.

That’s one of many stories. There’s also the time he threw a shoe at an opponent backstage. Or the time Diaz and his teammates jumped a fellow fighter on live network TV.

The fans who love Diaz can’t get enough of these stories.

The people who are responsible for trying to corral him could stand a little less excitement.

“It used to drive me absolutely crazy,” says Diaz’s manager and longtime trainer, Cesar Gracie. “Like, I couldn’t sleep at night.”

When Diaz would fail to show up for another news conference or video shoot, Gracie’s phone would go off.

When Diaz failed postfight drug tests because of his frequent and unapologetic marijuana use, Gracie had to help put out the fires.

Just getting his client to show up at the airport when the UFC booked him on a flight could seem like an insurmountable challenge.

The last time Diaz was slated to fight for St-Pierre’s title, he blew off one too many news media responsibilities and was pulled from the bout.

This time, a crisis was averted when he skipped Wednesday’s open workouts but managed to make Thursday’s news conference. Still, that constant stress is the kind of thing that drives managers such as Gracie crazy.

“I finally learned that I really don’t have that much control over it,” says Gracie, who began training Diaz when he was a 16-year-old kid who had wandered into one of Gracie’s jiu-jitsu gyms in Lodi, Calif. “With Nick, I don’t think he’s trying to disrespect anybody or be unprofessional. I think he’s just uncomfortable with media and with people trying to delve into his personal life or make him open up. … He hasn’t learned how to relate that way.”

According to those in Diaz’s inner circle, that’s the main difference between the man they know and the character they see portrayed in UFC ads and MMA news stories.

“He gets a bad rap, but he’s one of the most loyal friends I have,” says longtime training partner and fellow UFC welterweight Jake Shields.

To his younger brother, Nate, also a UFC fighter, he’s been part sibling and part father figure, Gracie says.

“If Nick hadn’t been there, things could have been a lot different for Nate,” Gracie says. “There weren’t a lot of opportunities for them to go to school, to college. There were financial issues and family issues. Fighting was really the best thing that could have happened for both of them.”

Diaz is a born fighter. Even his detractors agree on that.

But as training partner and UFC lightweight Gilbert Melendez puts it, “Some of the things that come with being a professional fighter, being an entertainer and doing media and all that, that’s not him.”

Maybe that’s why it seems, at times, as if Diaz despises the sport that pays his bills. It’s not the training that bothers him, his friends all say. He’s known for marathon sessions in the gym and for mixing in the occasional triathlon between fights.

“I think he’s probably the most in shape athlete there is in MMA,” Melendez says. “He’s just a machine, and he’ll outwork you. If every fight were to the death, Nick Diaz would be undefeated.”

But when it comes to dealing with the media, potential sponsors or even his UFC employers, Diaz “doesn’t like getting bossed around,” Shields says. “That’s why he fights. He wants to do what he wants to do.”

Sometimes that results in headaches for those around him; other times it costs Diaz a lot of money and crucial career opportunities. It’s what he brings inside the cage that makes so many people willing to put up with so much outside of it.

If Diaz brings it again Saturday, the fighter who can’t or won’t play the game could leave Montreal as the UFC’s welterweight champion.

Then the game might have to adjust to him.

For more on UFC 158, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.

view original article >>
Report here if this news is invalid.

Related News

Reminder: 'Countdown to UFC 207: Nunes vs. Rousey' debuts today on FS1

  • 29 days ago
  • 25 views

As a reminder, the UFC’s traditional pre-event show returns today with the debut of “Countdown to UFC 207: Nunes vs. Rousey” on FS1.Filed under: News, UFC, Videos read news >>

MMAjunkie Radio (1 p.m. ET): UFC 207's Louis Smolka and Alex Garcia, Eric Del Fierro (in studio)

  • 27 days ago
  • 2 views

MMAjunkie Radio kicks off today at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) with guests Louis Smolka, Alex Garcia and Eric Del Fierro.Filed under: MMAjunkie Radio, News, UFC read news >>

Watch today's weigh-in in dynamic 360 video

  • 26 days ago
  • 1 views

UFC is making history again as the first professional sport to test out the new live 360 video streaming technology on Periscope via Twitter at the UFC 207: NUNES vs. ROUSEY ceremonial weigh-in event read news >>

UFC 207's Ronda Rousey: 'I hear so many of the worst things anyone could ever even imagine'

  • 28 days ago
  • 36 views

Time out of the spotlight hasn’t left former UFC champ Ronda Rousey immune from criticism. “I hear so many of the worst things anyone could ever even imagine to say about me every single day,” she sa read news >>

USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie Rankings, Dec. 27: Can Ronda Rousey take back her No. 1 spot?

  • 27 days ago
  • 5 views

This weekend’s UFC 207 card is full of intriguing matchups, but there’s much on the line in the evening’s main event.Filed under: Bellator, MMA Rankings, News, UFC, WSOF read news >>

MMAjunkie Radio (1 p.m. ET): Max Holloway, Jeremy Stephens, Dan Tom, UFC 207 breakdown

  • 26 days ago
  • 3 views

MMAjunkie Radio kicks off today at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) with guests Max Holloway, Jeremy Stephens and Dan Tom.Filed under: MMAjunkie Radio, News, UFC read news >>

UFC 207: 6 Takeaways From the Night Ronda Rousey Fell Again | MMAWeekly.com

  • 24 days ago
  • 97 views

Wow, a lot of haters are happy today. Ronda Rousey got KTFO again, worse than the first time and now her future as an MMA fighter looks in doubt. read news >>

Dana White Dishes on 'Devastated' Ronda Rousey After UFC 207 Loss

  • 24 days ago
  • 85 views

Ronda Rousey is a lot of things, but above all else, she is a fierce competitor. She hates losing more than anything else and, now riding a two-fight losing streak after being beaten by Amanda Nunes read news >>

UFC Fight Night 104 ticket pre-sale starts today; $40 in the door for Bermudez-'Korean Zombie'

  • 20 days ago
  • 7 views

Just $40 will get you in the door to watch the return of “The Korean Zombie.”Filed under: News, UFC read news >>

MMAjunkie Radio (1 p.m. ET): UFC Fight Night 103's Joe Lauzon, Jon Anik, John Morgan

  • 19 days ago
  • 4 views

MMAjunkie Radio kicks off today at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) with guests Joe Lauzon, Jon Anik and John Morgan.Filed under: News, UFC read news >>