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Distinguishing “The Fighter” From “The Mixed Martial Artist”: Anderson Silva and Nick Diaz

(Countdown to UFC 183: Silva vs. Diaz via the UFC’s Youtube channel)

By CagePotato reader Rory Daniel

The phrase “fighting is in our DNA” is thrown around a lot these days and has inspired many a high quality piece of merchandise (LMAO), but does it actually have any bearing on real people? Like many hyperbolic, stupid, “sportsy” statements, it is both frustratingly vague and can be applied to both of this weekends main eventers, albeit in completely different ways.

Eddie Alvarez returned to the UFC recently, and a quote of his from Countdown to UFC 178 really struck me: “I’m not going to sit here and say I’m the most talented guy, but when it comes to fighting, when it comes to giving damage and taking damage, that’s where I’m the best at.” Of course Alvarez then ran into the currently unstoppable/ clinically insane Donald Cerrone, but the sentiment is what is important. He is doing what so many ‘fighters’ in the UFC’s employ fail to do: very simply identifying his job correctly. He is not employed by the UFC to cerebrally win enough of each round to win the fight, or to showcase superior spinning shit skillz (yes the ‘z’ is absolutely necessary), he is employed to fight.

A fighter who could never be accused of playing the point fighting game is super-nasty-horrible-bad-boy Nick Diaz who has been throwing around some interesting quotes of his own (other than this bit of absolute gold). “In order to love fighting, I have to hate it. You love so bad that you push yourself to where you hate it. I’m there. I’m ready to fight.” How much of this Diaz actually said is debatable, because I saw it on the official UFC instagram and we all know how accurate that is, but it tells you exactly who Nick Diaz is. He is a fighter who fights not because you get a lifetime supply of ivory suits for doing it, but because it is all he knows. Another quote from Nick: “They call me whenever they need a real fighter.”

On the other side of the cage to him will be “The Greatest Of All Time” (apart from GSP or any champion with an upcoming title fight obviously, but forget about them): Anderson Silva. For everything Diaz is, and everything this admittedly rather excellent Countdown show says he is (see above), Silva is the opposite. I’m not saying he’s a lay-on-top-of-you-like-a-punk-ass-bitch or even a point fighter  – just forget the Maia fight, I know it’s hard — but he is a martial artist more than a fighter.

“What’s the distinction?” I hear you ask (or if it’s not you I need to start seeing my shrink again). The attitude is the difference. All Anderson wants to do is get his belt back. He says as much in the Countdown show, he’s said as much in countless interviews; he still believes the gold Chris Weidman‘s holding is *his* belt and that’s all he’s pursuing.

Nick, on the other hand, is chasing a paycheck and the chance to test himself against the best of the best. He doesn’t care about the gold. He wants to say “I fought Anderson Silva and Frenchy St. Pierre, and I beat one of them.” He has an old school pride that says “Thou shalt not f*ck with me, homie.” He is always ready to step in and beat up Jason Miller, not because it’ll win him a belt, but because fighting is in his f*cking DNA, bro. Or it was in his upbringing, which seems more likely, but either way he is a fighter.

Of course, Nick still has incredible martial arts skillz, but he is a fighter before he is a martial artist, and like countless others before him, this will be his downfall. Don’t get me wrong, I’m rooting for Diaz, but Anderson Silva does what few fighters, and only the true greats, can accomplish. He has combined the mentality of fighter and martial artist. When he throws a strike, you see the aggressive, nasty side, the fighter, shine through. When he hangs back and lures his opponent in to him, he’s a martial artist and then, *snap*, he’s a fighter again (or he’s broken his leg). Jon Jones does this, Jose Aldo does this, even Ronda Rousey, the least established of these, does this — though she has a little more of the ‘fighter’ in her than others.

There are so few fighters in the UFC’s employ who truly understand their job role. If you don’t have Anderson Silva’s martial arts skillz (still necessary), you need to fight. You need to be allowed to bang, bro. You need to NOT POINT FIGHT AND COMPLAIN WHEN YOU LOSE A CLOSE DECISION, BENSON HENDERSON. Fighting may not be in our DNA, but if fighters can get it into their constantly battered nogs that sometimes you must simply fight, then lo, God shall rain down horribly restrictive eight fight contracts on you. Or to put it another way, there is a reason Brad Pickett is one of Dana White’s favourite fighters, and it’s not (only) his cockney charm.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is to keep a look out for ‘fighters’ and ‘martial artists’ because there is a distinct difference, and every once in a while, we get a rare talent who is both. Enjoy them while they last, even if they get ridiculous gorilla tattoos.

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