Nick Diaz In Black Belt Magazine
By Edward Pollard
Nick Diaz is an outsider whose uncompromising stance as a fighter and as an individual put him in a unique position as a professional athlete. At the fairly young age of 26, Diaz is a seasoned veteran whose experience covers a broad spectrum of the mixed-martial arts landscape. He started fighting as a professional at 18 and has been at it ever since. Heís competed in the Ultimate Fighting Championship as well as the defunct PRIDE Fighting Championships in Japan, and he is now under contract with San Jose, California-based Strikeforce.
Aside from the fact that this Stockton, California native was raised in a difficult environment, he has had to deal with the added setback of being diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. However, Diaz refused to take prescription drugs like Ritalin, preferring to deal with the symptoms in his own way. Discovering that martial arts provided him with both a structure for his behavior and an outlet for his physical gifts, he came to adopt Brazilian jiu-jitsu with the help of Cesar Gracie, a teacher-student relationship that he still maintains.
Keep in mind that Diaz maintains a punishing training schedule that could floor the average mixed martial artist. He may not be a champion now, but you can bet that his path will soon lead to a title shot.
Black Belt: Youíve been training hard for a specific opponent and he gets bumped from the card. How do you deal with the period when you donít know who youíre going to face?
Nick Diaz: Thatís probably the hardest part about mixed martial arts for me over the last seven fights. I never know who Iím going to fight, usually. Iíve never had like a whole month knowing who Iím going to fight. If I did, I trained for that month for that person in particular and they changed my opponent.
So thatís happened to you a lot?
Thatís what happened this time. I trained for a certain guy and now Iím training for a different guy, which is really de-motivating, especially at a time when I donít know who Iím fighting. Once I know who Iím training for, I start training real good and real hard.
Do you think in a way thatís an advantage? Police donít know who theyíre going to face specifically, but they still have to be prepared. In a way, youíre also ready for anybody.
Yeah, but I just think about what history shows. Any time anybodyís ever gone into battle, whoever doesnít know what theyíre up against usually loses.
You could probably narrow down your list of opponents by now.
The only times Iíve ever lost are when I didnít know enough about my opponent or didnít know who my opponent was. Thatís the biggest challenge for me, knowing who it is, getting on the ball real quick, and finding out how to deal with him.
How do you stay alert and ready for that next opponent? How do you get through that period?
I pretty much have to push myself and I have to rely a lot more on good judgment instead of that adrenaline and energy I would get from knowing who Iím going to fight. Itís kind of automatic then. But now I know who Iím going to fight so Iíve just got to be really smart about making it into the gym anyways, putting in the same effort and getting ready.
MMA fighter Nick Diaz competes in Strikeforce
In general, how do you maintain your level of competitive interest in MMA?
I want to be really happy, so I use training to stay balanced. I use the other things I do throughout the day to balance things out.
So instead of thinking MMA all the time, you pursue a normal life.
You canít really [think about MMA all the time]. You have to have some sort of life. Thatís the hard part, though. You have to have a life to balance. This has to complement that and thatís got to complement this, you know?
Tell me about prepping for the fight you had with Frank Shamrock. Frankís another guy who is really capable in a lot of different fields, right?
For me, I know Frank and where he came from. I work harder than him and I know his tricks. I know what his mentality is. He thinks he knows exactly what I do, but he didnít know that I came from his backyard.
I have the same sort of mentality as Frankóhe thinks the same way I do. I think the same way he does on account of him. He brought a lot to the table when it comes to mixed martial arts and training jiu-jitsu. When he fought Tito [Ortiz], I heard a lot about that fight.
Was his meeting with Ortiz an MMA landmark? Did he prove a lot to you in that fight?
Yeah, and some of these people who looked up to Frank were so up his ass for the five years that I was training in the beginning. So many guys would come in with wrestling shoes, but I would tap them all out with chokes and arm locks and sweeps and stuff. I would train with a gi and despite all that they would show up and try to act like Frank. They wanted to lift weights and do steroids and paint their hair. This is the sporty type of attitude.
Is being sporty more of an attention thing?
Yeah. They want repercussions from training. They like the look. They didnít like the way they looked doing martial arts in a gi. They thought that was dorky or something. They donít like karateóitís just sort of a dorky thing or something. They like to be cool, more like jocksólift weights, you know. Here in America they felt better trying to impress their girlfriends than they did walking around with ninja skills and a karate gi. I heard a lot of people from the Lionís Den would call it pajamas.
Itís the mentality that is mostly concerned with having a strong and big upper body. Thatís why wrestling remains popular. Do you think thatís why steroids are such a factor?
Yeah, but these guys liked to hang out together to do all that stuff. Iíd go right in and tap all of them out and they wouldnít like that. I was younger than them, too. Iíd wear a gi and they were against that. So I had to go where there was an instructor who could tell people that this is the way. Because theyíre not going to listen to anything, even though I was tapping them out. Thatís how ignorant people are. Even when they see it right in front of their faces theyíre not going to believe it. Iím tapping them out.
Once I got into the academy everybody had the same mind-set as me, so I thought, ďGreat, weíll all learn jiu-jitsu together and train together.Ē Sometimes I tried to get those guys to train and theyíd be like, ďYou go run and lift weights like we did and then weíll train with you.Ē And Iím like, ďDude, why are you doing all that when Iíll beat you? Itís obviously not helping you.Ē I actually went through that with a lot of people from the time I was 16 until I was about 19.
Mixed martial artist Nick Diaz fights in Strikeforce
Your brother Nate fights for the UFC and you used to fight for them. Do you give him advice about how to handle things?
Yeah, I do. I give him the heads-up about what they do. He understands that theyíre not completely all for you over there. You have to watch out and be ready for what youíre doing. Itís geared to that sportier athlete.
Iím at war. As far as Iím concerned, this is warfare and Iím a ninja warrior and Iím taught to kill in the most efficient way possible. Thatís the sort of mentality Iím going in there with.
I donít want to sit next to you and have a conversation and lunch and have an interview together and talk and shake hands. Iím like, Fine, if the media wants to talk to me or see me or ask me questions, they can hear about whatever.
The UFC thinks [marketing] is good for the sport, but we donít need to worry about that anymore. Iím sorryóI just donít believe that we do. Itís not like weíre marketing Crystal Pepsióthis thingís here to stay now.
Iím sorry that it scares people and that theyíre not mature enough to understand that violence is a part of life. Itís just the way it is and itís not my problem. Thatís just the way I feel.
I donít mean to be bad for the sport. Iím sorry if Iím bad for the sport. I donít necessarily love this sport, either. I love jiu-jitsu and martial arts and competition, but mixed martial arts and what it is today, I donít necessarily love it. Itís just not an easy job. And people like to point their fingers a lot and think itís a ballgame and they think itís an easy job, and itís not that easy. I need to look like this killer to my adversary. I need to have that mental edge and I will have it. Itís the most important thing if Iím going to be fighting.
And you donít want to piss away that mental edge by doing promotional stuff.
Yeah, Iím not going to sell out to anything like that. Iíve already said Iím not going to, so how could I now? Itís just bullshit anyway. Iím going to put on an act and then go fight somebody? Iím going to go in there and fight for my life, but then I have to go and act like I like this person? Itís hard.
When I got into this, I was 17 years old. I had this mentality and it worked for me, but I just turned 26 and I had a girlfriend for five years and itís harder. Her sisterís kids have to see me go out there and fight and I have to try and act sportsmanlike and itís kind of hard. So this isnít my favorite thing to do on Earth. People are calling me a creep and telling me that Iím a monster or whatever, but I donít especially enjoy this.
I donít think you enjoy going to your job eight hours a day, do you? So I can smile and act nice and be a good sport, but Iíll do that when I get home. At the same time, this has caused me a lot of problems. People who donít agree with how I feel have a hard time understanding me. My ex-girlfriendís dadóin five years I never met this guy. He was probably intimidated by me. He probably intimidates everybody heís ever met in his life, but he doesnít want to meet me. That sucks a lot.
I got into this sport as an angry, rebellious, mad kid. I was going to be nothing and nobody and all that stuff, coming from nowhere like Stockton. I was real angry about that and I had a really hard time trying to do good in school, especially when they moved me around a few schools and it just wasnít easy for me, so you know I was angry.
You get a lot of things out of fighting if you work hard. For instance, I had a girlfriend and I started to have a normal life after a while. Then you have something new to work for instead of just being angry. I had a potential family and stuff like that to take care of. Now that Iím making money, thatís actually a possibility.
Mixed martial artist Nick Diaz fights in Strikeforce
You didnít have much to look forward to before.
Yeah. But for me the only problem was that five years in I wasnít concentrating on that until I started to see repercussions. Then I started to think about that, but by then I was just acting like an asshole.
I had to start from scratch when I broke up with my girlfriend. Iím at this point where Iíve fought for all these years straight and now Iíve made some money. I still live at home with my brother and my parents, but I want out now; Iím ready to go do something. Iím at a crossroads.
Youíve got to have people to trust, for sure.
But fighting makes it hard. Youíre putting people off on account of training. You have to. Nobody understands that if youíre out there, youíre going to get your head pounded into the mat. Gil Castillo told me that. Heís always stressing out about his girlfriend. Heíd be fighting and training and heíd want a personal life or just a life, period, but he couldnít take care of both.
Itís a lot of physical stress and all of a sudden you have mental stress. Iíd be like, ďOh, dude, you have no physical to carry you through the mental part.Ē He would say that nobodyís going to know what youíre going through, not your mom, not your girlfriendóonly you. Youíve got to think about that if youíre going to fight mixed martial arts. Nobodyís going to understand how fucked up and hard that **** is. So youíve just got to make the best of all the good things. If you canít, then youíre in trouble.
Iím trying to be 100 percent happy and manipulate myself into being angry, into being happy, into being all these things. I have to trick myself with all these emotions and Iím going to have to be strong enough to trick myself with it all the time. So I donít ever just get to be a normal human and be emotional or some **** like that. Iíve got to block all that off.
Do you think what happened to Josh Barnett is going to shake a lot of people from the tree in terms of steroid use?
Theyíre all on steroids, though, you know? All of them are on steroids, dude. Obviously, he was trying to cycle off and they got him.
Thereís a certain type of person who does steroids. I just donít fall into that category. If you do steroids, you canít stop. You have to do them. Even if the steroids were placebos, it would be a mental issue and you would still need steroids because youíre aware of your testosterone level and how it goes up and then drops, but it wonít go back up to 100 percent unless you use steroids again.
So youíre screwed once you start.
Yeah, steroids turned me off from the very beginning. I think I was brought up with certain good habits and one of them was to not stick needles in my ass. (laughs)
Maybe some people arenít that lucky. But maybe you grew up and saw some of those people become pro wrestlers. No one told them not to do it and now you see what happens to them. They just turn into caricatures.
And I always thought it was kind of funny. So much of steroids is for looks. When I started fighting, most of the time I would have a confrontation with people I didnít get along with: jocks and high school kids. Not to cry about how I didnít have this or that and whateveróbut they did. And we were both there. I wasnít going anywhere, so we clashed. They did steroids and I never did.
Mixed martial artist Nick Diaz fights in Strikeforce
Wow, they were already using stuff like that in high school for football and stuff?
Yeah. When I was in high school, the whole football team was on steroids. The whole football team. The wrestlers were on steroids and they were weird. You would always hear stories about people getting carried away. Youíd hear about this guy smashing someoneís head.
A íroid rage kind of thing.
Yeah, and so people would be so intimidated by these guys, but I wouldnít punk out. At the same time, they wouldnít invite me to come play football with them. So I had a lot of anxiety involved with going to school every day and having to think about fighting or getting jumped. So this never went away for me.
In high school I started fighting in mixed martial arts, so by the time the confrontations stopped in school I was fighting in MMA. People didnít want to fight with me anymoreóthey wanted to be my friend. But then every three months or so I would have a serious fight, so itís hard to sleep now. Itís the same anxieties, the same energy.
I donít like to use emotional words like anxiety, nervous or excited. People abuse these words to market medicine for kids. They tried to stuff Ritalin down my throat my whole lifeóitís methamphetamines. They try that with every single kid. You might not be doing your homework and you get thrown around a few schools and [your assignments are] going to look shitty compared to the other kids, so you donít do it at all. Then they decide, ďHeís not paying attention. He needs Ritalin.Ē
As far as Iím concerned, they use emotions to market drugs and I think itís negative; I donít agree with it. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that people are weak.
Is that why you prefer a natural approach?
Yeah. I know that if I poke at somebodyís mental aspects, theyíre not all there, either. They might have anxiety or depression. If weíre going to get political and start talking and doing interviews together, I might be able to poke at this stuff. You might not want to have me sitting right next to one of these guys in an interview.
Iím just too conscious of what makes people tick and what makes people the way they are, mostly because Iím trying to figure out a way to beat them, to be a more efficient killer, if you will. I want to figure out exactly what makes you tick. I feel like Iíve got the right information, especially if I know where you come from and who your friends are. If youíre from another country, that makes it a little trickier, but then I like to think about all the things you donít have over there. You might not have a lot of our bad habits, like all the emotional things that come into play, but over there theyíre missing a lot of things in general. They donít have good boxing training over there, or good wrestlers. The whole rest of the world doesnít have all three, so by the time they start coming out and having competitors, weíll just decide on what theyíre not good at.
Your opponentís gotta watch out, man.
My opponent is gonna have to be rock solid or something, because Iím going to figure out what [of theirs] is not and Iím going to attack that. Thatís the idea. At the same time, Iíve always gone this way like [a kind of] insurance.
I used to have a girlfriend, but I didnít bring her to shows and stuff. I wasnít going to walk in and show that Iím happy and have a normal life. A lot of times I wouldnít, and thatís not a normal life. Even acting like you have a normal life is not having a normal life. You can quote me on that. Acting like you donít have a normal life is pretty much not having a normal life, because putting on that front for 24 hours is just crazy.
And then you have to live with it.
Yeah, so if I have to live with that, and youíre not, that gives me a whole lot of confidence in a weird way. It gives me a whole lot of things, but it doesnít give me a whole lot of other stuff, but it gives me a whole lot of one thing and thatís confidence to know that Iím going to smash you, because you havenít suffered and you havenít given up the things that Iíve given up. You expect to come in here and beat me and then youíre going to wear a bunch of pink colors on top of this and youíre going to bring your happy wife and kids that I donít have and I might not even potentially ever haveóa happy life.
For all I know, everybodyís just going to go ahead and keep calling me a creep and saying, ďOh, what an asshole punk kidĒ because I talk **** or the way I look or whatever. So for all I know, itís going to be the same way that it has from the start. For all I know, by the time I actually do start to have a life, then Iíll start to take an ass whooping.
So when I go in to fight somebody, I take all these things into consideration. I look at your family, I look at who you have. Youíre going to bring your kids in? Youíre going to tell me that youíre going home, you have a happy familyóoh, youíre married now? You have to tend to your kids, you have to worry about them having dinner? You cannot. Even if you explain things to them and you think that itís OK because youíve explained it and you know that youíre in the right because you had to do whatever, theyíre not going to understand. No oneís going to understand. Thatís what I was talking about. Itís your head getting pounded into the mat, not theirs. Nobodyís going to understand but you.
Except another fighter.
Maybe another fighter. And if not that fighter, then heís definitely not going to beat me. There are plenty of people who havenít taken care of what they needed to take care of, and they think they can have this mentality, and they can go out there and still lose. Where Iím at right now, youíre doing something right if youíre beating me. Whatever it is, you did something better than I did. You were taking care of something.
Unless it was a decision.
Yeah, or a stupid doctor.