With his hood pulled up and the Deftone's "Feiticeira" blaring in the background, Nick Diaz shields himself from the rest of the world every time he walks to the cage.
Most fighters dream of the endless attention and spotlight the UFC brings, but Diaz simply isn't like other fighters.
He shuns any form of spotlight and attention. Whether fans boo or cheer, they are nonexistent in the head of Diaz, whose only satisfaction as a professional athlete is competition. His love for competing is the only thing that makes sense in this media-driven world of hype and pretentious stories.
People often mistake Diaz's bad attitude and withdrawn personality for an inflated ego or thug-like mindset. When in reality, Diaz's anger stems from a personal disdain for his job. Fighting may be what Diaz does for a living, but it doesn't define him as a person.
In an interview with Ariel Helwani, he admits that he never liked fighting:
I never liked doing this. I don't like not having a job, especially when I started Mixed Martial Arts, this was all I could do. I've even said it after fight interviews that this is all I know how to do, so that's what I do. But no, I love Jiu-Jitsu, and I love my team, and I love repping Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and I love athletics and martial arts and competition because it gets me right and puts me in the right place to get in shape and stay healthy.
The word fearless is a direct misinterpretation of what it means to be a fighter.
As a fan, it's easy to become desensitized from the stands. It's not easy stepping into a cage knowing ahead of time a trained fighter has dedicated months of his life with the sole purpose of hurting you.
Diaz struggles with this same fear before every fight. The fear often causes him to transform into a hardened version of himself. It's a tough life, but the opportunity to give back and provide a better life for his mother makes everything worth it.
"It's a very scary situation when people are trying to manipulate positions so that they can smash your face with elbows and just rain it down. That's hard times dealing with that idea of what might be in front of you your whole life, one after another sort of thing," Diaz told Helwani.
...When I lived at home with my parents. I'd just make a mess and just do whatever I wanted. I had my mom drive me to practice everywhere. I'm really grateful I had her. She took me and signed me up at the Animal House Gym when I started training and I would make her drive me all the way to Concord to train at the Cesar Academy, and it's an hour drive and she worked full time as a waitress.
She would drive me all the way down Highway 12 and hang out a few hours so I could train there. That's why I'm here. I'm fighting hard, I'm training hard. I'm still walking over people and stepping over people to get where I'm going and I would really like to give back especially to my mom, who was there for me when I was a kid.
Diaz is easily the most misunderstood man in sports, but he has only himself to blame for it.
Fans are only given a small glimpse into the life of a professional athlete. It's tough to root for a guy plastered all over the media yelling profanities and throwing up middle fingers. Diaz's controversial ways of expressing himself go against the general expectations of all professional athletes.
People expect athletes to dress and act a certain way as role models for future generations. For fighters, it's tough for everyone to exhibit that same mindset. MMA doesn't involve throwing a ball around and scoring points. It is human competition stripped to its rawest form, and it involves one man hurting and possibly even injuring another.
Diaz will never be the suit and tie type of fighter like UFC welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre, who shows up to every interview and says all the right things. This doesn't make him any less of a hero or inspiration for others out there.
Diaz was born in Stockton, but he grew up in Lodi, California, where his mother struggled to make ends meet. Despite a tough upbringing, Diaz is proof that perseverance and hard work can overcome any situation.
During his "Primetime" interview for the Carlos Condit fight, he talked about the difficulties of high school and how it still affects him to this day:
You don't know if you're gonna get shot or stabbed or jumped at school because that's what happens to everybody else. It's not like, 'Oh, I'm paranoid or something.' I'm not paranoid. I'm not stupid. That's why I win these fights now because I'm not stupid.
It's just like now, before fights, you get a little pumped up and you feel like that when you're going to school and how do you think you look? You're sitting there waiting to fight, and then they put these cameras on me when I'm sitting here ready to fight and then I'm back in high school.
All of Diaz's hard work has led him to a March 16 UFC title bout against St-Pierre.
The UFC 158 main event bout is being billed as one of the most anticipated grudge matches in MMA history. After defeating B.J. Penn at UFC 137, Diaz told UFC commentator Joe Rogan he believed St-Pierre was faking injuries to avoid fights.
As the fight approaches, Diaz will likely be portrayed as the bad guy in the situation, and he's fine with that scenario as long as he gets a UFC title shot. Did he really do anything so different from fighters like Chael Sonnen, who trashed talked his way into back-to-back title bouts with Anderson Silva and Jon Jones?
Diaz harbors no animosity towards St-Pierre. In fact, he wishes he could be more like him in some ways.
"See how I gotta come off just to get a fight? I gotta come off like that just to get a fight. I got to be the bad guy. You want to point the finger and make me the bad guy, I'm the bad guy, and now I get the fight," Diaz said at the UFC 137 post-fight press conference.
...I want to go against the best fighters. That's why I'm always calling out Georges St-Pierre. I don't have anything against Georges St-Pierre. I think he's a great fighter. I think he's a nice guy just like everybody else, and he's a great role model. I would love to be that too if I was in that position. I just unfortunately haven't had the opportunity and the right people behind me to push me to be that type of fighter or that type of role model.
Some see him as a foul-mouthed thug who deserves nothing short of a lopsided beating, and others see a misunderstood soul longing for acceptance and understanding from those who continuously write him off.
Diaz will always be an enigma simply because he chooses to be. It doesn't matter whether fans love or hate him.
With his hood pulled up and the Deftone's "Feiticeira" blaring in the background, Diaz shields himself from the rest of the world every time he walks to the cage.
What else would you expect from the most misunderstood man in sports?
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