Nate Diaz is an enigma. A simultaneously simple and complex individual who is loved and revered by many and misunderstood by others. The fact that we know surprisingly little about him outside of fighting further adds to his mystique. He doesn’t seek the limelight and is typically reluctant to partake in media appearances leading up to fights. But, his exploits inside the Octagon make him one of the fight game’s biggest stars.
A more casual observer would look at Diaz’s MMA record (21-13) and dismiss his accomplishments and abilities. They might point to the fact that he only competed once and came up short for a UFC title. But Nate Diaz’s legacy goes far beyond the simple calculation of wins and losses.
Nate will tell you himself – that he and his brother Nick (who Nate with all sincerity dubs ‘the greatest fighter in the world) are the most real fighters on the roster. That if you take away the rules, the time limits, and the referee, the Diaz brothers would be undefeated. This rhetoric is lapped up by the Nate Diaz army, who point to his recent bout with current 170-pound champion Leon Edwards as proof.
Wherever you fall on the Nate Diaz spectrum, there’s no denying that he is must watch television. He is truly a fighter’s fighter, a throwback to a time when fighters fought to fight rather than for fame, fortune, or accolades. On Saturday night, Nate will make the walk to the Octagon for (seemingly) one final time. To pay homage to Stockton’s most celebrated son, let’s look back at three of his most career-defining moments:
3 – Nate Diaz vs. Jim Miller
To understand the significance of this win, you need to understand the quality of Jim Miller. Miller has been a mainstay in the UFC since 2008. He holds a multitude of UFC records, including most fights, most wins, and second most wins via submission. You don’t put together the body of work he has without being one of the toughest SOBs around. Miller was in his prime in 2012 (21-3). But, he ran into a young, brash Nate Diaz who proceeded to not only beat him up on the feet but then submit him – the first time he had been stopped in his career. This victory earned Nate a shot at Benson Henderson’s 155-pound belt, where he came up short.
2 – Nate Diaz vs. Kurt Pellegrino
For this moment, let’s rewind to Nate’s third fight under the UFC banner. Diaz delivered a spectacular performance against BJJ black belt Kurt Pellegrino. During this fight came one of the most iconic moments of his career:
With the triangle locked in place, Nate does the most Nate Diaz thing imaginable. He flips off the crowd with both middle fingers, celebrates, and flexes his biceps, all before turning the corner on the triangle and eliciting the tap from Pellegrino. Nobody else but Nate Diaz would do something like that, especially against such a talented BJJ practitioner like Pellegrino.
1 – Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor
I know, I know, you already knew this one was coming. It’s cliche, it’s predictable, but there’s no doubt about the fact that this was the biggest moment of Nate Diaz’s career to date (although an improbable win over Khamzat Chimaev would supersede it).
Coming off a spectacular performance over Michael Johnson, Nate leveraged his spot on a primetime UFC on Fox to call out Conor McGregor. This would set into motion a series of events that would tie McGregor and Diaz into an inextricable relationship and for whom a potential trilogy showdown will always loom large.
After Rafael Dos Anjos pulled out of his clash with McGregor, Nate stepped in at short notice. Only a few fans gave Nate any hope. McGregor held an air of invincibility borne from a 15-fight winning streak that culminated in the knockout of the Featherweight king, Jose Aldo. Surely there was no way that Nate Diaz would win. Diaz had other plans, breaking down McGregor and choking him out in the second round to earn one of the UFC’s all-time wins. Perhaps even more iconic than the victory itself is Nate’s now legendary post-fight interview.
“I’m not suprised motherf**kers”
We shouldn’t have been surprised either Nate.
Those are my top three iconic Nate Diaz moments. He will hope to add another one to his resume against Khamzat Chimaev at UFC 279. Drop a comment below and share your favourite Nate Diaz moment.
Featured image credits to Embed from Getty Images