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Crazy or Cunning? Nate Diaz Might Be Smarter Than We Think He Is

(“…and another thing, man, what’s up with these mothaf*ckin Grape Nuts, y’know, is it a grape, is it a nut, I don’t even know what the f*ck I’m eating homie, but it’s whatever.”)

By Trent Reinsmith

UFC president Dana White once claimed that lightweight fighter Nate Diaz “doesn’t move the needle” with fight fans. Well, heading into his fight on Saturday night against Rafael dos Anjos, Diaz has buried the needle in the red. And you know what? I’m kind of digging it…a lot.

The 29-year-old Stockton, California-based fighter has pulled exactly zero punches leading into the co-main event of UFC on Fox 13. On December 2nd, in the wake of the announcement that the UFC had signed a uniform deal with Reebok, Diaz tweeted his uncensored feelings on the deal; he later said he was hacked, but didn’t bother to delete the tweet in question. Diaz followed that by missing his December 10th scheduled open workout for the UFC on Fox 13 show, claiming he “kind of slept in.” Most recently he blasted both recent UFC signee CM Punk and the UFC for signing the former WWE champion. Diaz’s exact words, “f-ck him, f-ck the whole situation.”

At first blush it seems as if Diaz is slowly pulling a knife across his own throat with these types of comments, but if you dig a little deeper, Diaz may actually be a lot more cunning than he is crazy.

Everyone knows White’s claim that Diaz doesn’t move the needle was total nonsense. Hell, the UFC went and booked Diaz in the co-main event of a Fox event after he sat out for more than a year, so even the people who work for White know that claim was a huge stretch. Diaz also knows that statement was made by White to attempt to put the fighter in check. As Diaz told me when I interviewed him for Fight! Magazine, “I think the moving the needle thing they were saying, and the way they were trying to downplay me was just a ridiculous statement.” Diaz followed that with what now seems like some foreshadowing, “I think that just upped the bar, and now I’m going to move the needle even more.”

Diaz’s recent comments and actions have done just what he promised ­– generated even more attention around him as a personality and a product. He’s taken his normal rebel stance and cranked it up into overdrive. He’s practically jutting his chin out and waving the UFC in with arms outstretched, asking the promotion to do their worst while knowing full well they can’t do anything but take what he is doling out.

The UFC could react to Diaz, but the only way the promotion can silence him is to release him, and that would be a huge mistake on the UFC’s part. Diaz understands this, just as much as the UFC does.

Say Diaz loses to Dos Anjos on Saturday night; do you honestly think the UFC would release him? That’s not going to happen. The minute Diaz is released, Bellator would send a Brink’s truck over to his Stockton abode looking to sign him to a long-term deal. Diaz knows he has value, and right now he’s making sure the UFC knows that he knows that.

If Diaz does lose and is released by the UFC; Diaz and Bellator have a ready-made storyline to sell to the fans that tune into the Bellator fights on Spike TV. Nate Diaz — the rebel that was too much for the UFC to handle.

Another reason the UFC will not and more importantly cannot release Diaz is the fact that he is a known commodity with a rabid fan following who has fought in the UFC since 2007. The last time Diaz was not on a main card was 2011 when he fought Rory MacDonald on the Spike TV portion of UFC 129.  When discussing this point with MMAFighting, Diaz said, “”Come on. I’ll lose this fight and they’ll bring me back and put me on another main event, co-main event. And then they probably won’t because I just said that. But it don’t matter, you’re still going to sell the card with me or somebody who’s been around long enough, because everyone’s new.”

So, what if Diaz wins on Saturday night? Will Joe Rogan approach Diaz in the Octagon with a live microphone and let him offer his thoughts on his fight, and his future with the UFC? My money says there’s not a chance that will occur after what’s gone down these last few days. However, if it does happen, I would like to see an iso cam on White’s face from the moment Rogan leaves his seat cageside to the last “Cesar Gracie Jiu Jitsu” shout out from Diaz.

Odds are that the broadcast will go to commercial and the next time we see Diaz will be at the post-fight presser where UFC brass will pray that no one asks Diaz a question, and if you have ever attended or watched a post-fight press conference after a Diaz fight, you know that is not going to happen.

The one drawback to this plan, and I’ll admit it is a big drawback, is that if Diaz is not released from his UFC deal he will be forced to toil under the contract he signed prior to facing Benson Henderson in 2012. Still, Diaz will continue to get paid, and best of all (at least for fans and media), he’ll continue to speak his mind for the duration of that contract, looking to see if he can find that magic UFC release button that will send him into the arms of a suitor with a wide open checkbook.

The UFC – scratch that, UFC fans — need more rebels like Diaz, fighters who are unafraid to say what they want. Fighters who know their value and are unafraid to make every attempt to get what they deserve. Sure the fans have their “UFC approved” badasses like Chael Sonnen and Conor McGregor who wear the rebel’s uniform while winking at the UFC brass, but the real zero-f*cks-given rebels like Nate Diaz are few and far between. These are the fighters that will move the needle. These are the fighters that will call the UFC out when the feel they are getting the short end of the deal. These are the fighters that may or may not last too long with the UFC, but they’ll always be the fighters the fans will remember.

Keep moving that needle Mr. Diaz, keep moving that needle.

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