When we last saw Nick Diaz, he was whipping Muhsin Corbbrey at EliteXC: The Return of the King, and advising KJ Noons not to be frightened. Diaz gets back into the cage this Saturday at the second installment of EliteXC’s “Saturday Night Fights” (CBS, 9 p.m. ET/PT), and while he won’t be settling his grudge with Noons, he’ll be facing the very tough Thomas Denny in front of a rabid hometown crowd at the Stockton Arena. The always outspoken Cesar Gracie-trained fighter recently chatted with us about the origins of his bad attitude, why MMA fights should be held in a ring, and why steroids should be legal.
CAGEPOTATO.COM: Are you disappointed that you’re not fighting KJ Noons on Saturday?
NICK DIAZ: Sure. I want to get that fight over and done with as soon as I can. But I gotta handle the Denny fight first, because if I don’t win it won’t look too good on my part, as far as a future fight with KJ goes. But KJ doesn’t want to fight me — he likes to pick his fights. I figure the only way he’ll fight me is if they make him do it, so I gotta be the guy in line.
Have you seen anything in Thomas Denny’s game that concerns you?
Well, everything concerns me. He’s a good fighter. But I’m ready for this type of guy. I know I train harder than him. I don’t have time to run a school and teach kids; he seems to have time to do a lot of things. It’s a lot to have on the table if you’re trying to be a professional fighter too.
The California State Athletic Commission is notorious for pulling fighters at the last minute — you went through it yourself back in March. How are you dealing with the CSAC this time so that you don’t have to experience that again?
I don’t have an issue with them. It was a big misunderstanding — the commission apologized and we’re all cool. It cost me a lot of money, but let’s get past it. I’ve forgotten about it pretty much.
So your medical marijuana card won’t be a problem this time?
No, not at all. It was never a problem before. I planned on testing clean in the last fight, and I’m going to test clean in this fight like all the other fighters, so that’s not even an issue. You get some of your freedoms screwed with, with the commission being as tight and all. But they own the shit and they run the shit. They’ve been manipulating us from the beginning. We’re not stupid, and I feel like we should stand up for our rights. If guys want to do steroids in this sport, then power to ‘em. I don’t do steroids, I’m not into chemicals or needles, it completely freaks me out. I don’t even do Advil. But if these guys want to do steroids, I would like them to do steroids.
You don’t think steroids give fighters an unfair competitive advantage?
No. You’re gonna have guys that are juiced up and going good, and then you’re gonna have guys who are coming down, toward the end of their career. These guys aren’t long-term fighters. They try to time it, and it becomes a lot more hard work for them, I think. And it takes its toll. I’ll just be around longer, fighting for longer, living a little healthier. So I think we should all be free to do whatever the hell we want. Even if you’re going in there on Novocaine and you can’t feel a thing, how long are you gonna last like that? I’ll make my comeback when you get knocked out the next fight because your legs don’t work. That’s the way I look at it. I just try to stay on the right track and I can see everybody — it’s like we’re all in a fish tank and I can see them all swimming around.
Your contract with EliteXC prevented you from fighting Mach Sakurai at DREAM.5 — do you think you’ll ever fight for DREAM again?
I really love fighting in Japan. For me, it’s the scoring criteria, and the way the rules work — it just favors a more technical fighter. You’re not gonna be able to go in there and be a strong guy and hold a guy down and win. If you go on top and try to hold a guy, they yellow card you. You can’t throw elbows on the ground. In the UFC you can hold a guy while elbowing him and it takes a lot of the technical aspect out of the sport and it becomes really frustrating for the guy on bottom. And another thing is they’re going to score the takedown. It doesn’t work anything like that in Japan — they’ve got it all worked out up there. Another thing is I can hear my corner, because the fans aren’t so out-of-control, coked out and drunk. It’s a completely different world. It’s very tranquil and peaceful for me, and I feel I can go with the warrior spirit attitude; it’s the way I always imagined it. Plus, it’s in a ring where everyone can see the show.
I hope sometime in the future EliteXC will come out with a separate organization that has the same scoring criteria and rules. Maybe they need to hire some of those guys from Japan to train them, so we can have that type of organization out here, where some of us American fighters will have the opportunity to showcase our skills to the fullest. Not to knock EliteXC — I love EliteXC, they’ve been great to me, and they’re my team. I’m fighting to represent that show.
I think the public conception of you is as this very stoic, intense person. Is that how you see yourself?
Absolutely. I take this very seriously. I do all my work in the gym; I fell behind on all the marketing aspects that go along with this sport, and a lot of the reason for that was because I was only 17 years old when I started. People don’t take that into consideration, they just point the finger at me and say “that’s the bad guy.” I was really young when I came out, and I was really on fight mode.
It was gangster shit in high school. My town is so much nicer now, and everything’s cleaned up. I wouldn’t be afraid to put my kids in the same schools [that I went to] because they’re so much better. But when I went, people were getting shot, stabbed — I got stabbed, I lost a couple friends — and it wasn’t a joke, there was a lot of fighting for no reason going on. I had a lot of anxiety and intensity when I walked around school. I got switched around a lot of schools when I was younger, so I wasn’t rollin’ with a bunch of homies when I got into high school.
I had a pretty good-looking girlfriend back then — a girl I grew up with and finally started dating in high school — and before me she’d kinda dated this sophomore, and he was in with the football team, and all the gangsters played football. And so this kid had a rich dad and he was like the coach or something, and he would talk shit and everyone would be on his side. I wanted to play football, and I never ended up playing football, I never wrestled, and that’s also why I stopped swimming. I didn’t think it was too cool to swim — I had a hot girlfriend, I wanted to play football with the rest of the cool guys. None of that worked out, and I was so lucky to find the Animal House gym in Lodi, where I met Steve Heath, who was a blue belt under Cesar Gracie. I found my direction right there and I never looked back.
Do you have to dislike someone in order to perform your best in a fight against them?
Well, if I can talk shit to them, it’s gonna make them scared, or they’re gonna fight harder, and that’s what I need you to do — go hard. I need some direction to counter. If you’re gonna be slow and scared and not move, I’m going to tell right away. If you’re gonna come 100%, I’m going to be able to tell too. It’s just the way I fight. When I fought Robbie Lawler, which was one of my first fights in the UFC, I didn’t have such a bad attitude, but I was really angry because everybody thought I was going to get knocked out. I could see it in their eyes — they were all going “you’re going to lose, you’re a jiu-jitsu guy, you shouldn’t stand with him,” and I was like “come and get me.” I’d been sparring with Rodney Jones, who was ranked #5 in the world as a boxer, and I put myself through the training I would need to beat Lawler.
He threw a few punches, and I could see them coming a mile away. It was over way early, it was a great fight, but everybody still doubted me and I had a really pissed off attitude about it. And after that, people expected it out of me. I was just a kid, I wasn’t as intellectual, and I didn’t understand what was going on, it was just a big mess to me, and I would come out and try to portray the same sort of craziness. Sometimes it would do me good, and sometimes it would screw me up. But I’ve got a lot more of a handle on it now, and I can see the big picture a lot better.
Did you happen to catch the Affliction show last Saturday?
What did you think?
I liked it because it was in a ring, but they don’t quite understand how to run it yet. Now they’re probably going to hate me and not use me in the future on account of me saying this, but they should really go and learn something from the Japanese. In PRIDE, they had those guys around the ring who’d go “no rope! no rope! no rope!” — they had a team of guys there that were on it, and helped restart and pull guys to the middle, they had a team of doctors who would jump in. It’s just a much better way. So, I saw Affliction and a couple times guys would fall through the ropes. It’s more of a cage-fight in a ring. But maybe they’ll figure it out as they go along.
I don’t feel like anybody wants to learn anything from the Japanese. A Hollywood producer came up with the Octagon. Even to this day people go “oh, you’re a cage fighter? You fight in a cage, like an animal?” Well, we could fight in a ring, there’s actually no reason why there’s a cage — but that’s showbiz, man. And that’s another reason we get a lot of shit from the boxing world. When [MMA] started we were just running around with our heads cut off and everything was crazy, so they’d see one fight or one thing they didn’t like and they’d automatically go “no I saw that, I checked it out” and they’d throw up a wall. They’d get tunnel vision after that because they see what kind of nonsense goes on. Our sport is just starting out and growing up, and I don’t think it should be in a cage. But that’s just me. If I was a strong wrestler that did steroids, though, I would hope for my fights to be in a cage where I could cram the guy against the fence, hold him down with all my strength and elbow him and not let him do any of his tricks to me.
Your brother’s next fight is against Josh Neer. I can’t figure out why he’s not being given an opponent who’s a little higher up the lightweight ladder. Does that matchup make sense to you?
Well, not that Josh Neer isn’t a good opponent, I actually think he’s one of the best they’ve got in the 155 pound class. But he doesn’t get much play, and my brother doesn’t get much play, so they’re like “alright, we’ll just take these two assholes and make them fight each other — we’ll save the Roger Huertas and the Kenny Florians.” I don’t know how they do it. It’s not right. My brother deserves to be a fucking millionaire. He trains every day, six to eight hours every day, driving and training and coming up with ideas for the next day. We should be paid like 20 dollars an hour, just like a regular job, for the day’s time, and then on top of that the bonus for the fight. It would make us feel a lot better. That’s the way it should go, because [Nate] deserves way more than what he’s getting, he’s worked really hard for what he’s already done. And if anybody else has done half as much as what he’s done, I swear that they would have benefited twice as much from it by now.
I picked up some magazines the other day, and out of four or five magazines, I’m not in a single one, except for on this one page about EliteXC. But I don’t get no love from Grappler, I don’t get no love from Tapout magazine, or Fight! magazine, none of ‘em. My brother was in one little part of one of them because they showed the winners from each season of The Ultimate Fighter, and there was a little picture of him. I’m going “what the hell, man?” My brother is fucking huge, he went on the show and represented his town, represented his team. And that’s who I’d want to see if I was a fan — guys who are exciting to watch and are actually good. They market some guys out ahead of everybody else. And that’s who people buy. Just like they buy shitty food that says “healthy” on it — something that says “South Beach Diet” and it’s full of trans fat and people think it’s diet food.
How will you celebrate after you beat Denny on Saturday?
I just signed up for the Vineman Triathalon, which is on my birthday, on August 2nd. I’m really cutting it close, but as long as I don’t bust my shit, or have any issues with my legs or hips, then I’m going to be taking a really good night’s rest after the fight, and the next day I’ll probably go out on a 13-mile run. I’ve already been biking 50, 60 miles at least four times a week. So I’m ready for the bike, and I’ve had swim practice every morning, so I’m ready for the swim. I’ll do some celebrating after that. Not hanging out in the gym all day long for two weeks or so should be a nice break.
Thanks so much, Nick. Anybody you want to shout out before we sign off?
I just want to give a shout out to the Deftones, who will be at the show in Stockton. I’m trying to get everything worked out so I can use their music. I’ve never gotten to pick my entrance music before, expect for when I fought in Japan. Of course I’d like to thank Chase Chevrolet in Stockton for always hookin’ me up, and I want to say thanks to my team, my boxing coach Richard Perez, and my brother for helping me train for this fight; I’m in better shape right now than I’ve ever been in my life, and I plan to be that way for every fight.