This past weekend at UFC 158 the world got a full display of the essence of Nick Diaz and what makes him Nick Diaz. We had the buildup to the fight which saw Nick throwing out wild conspiracy theories, we saw Nick miss press events and come up with wild, absolutely illogical excuses. Then, for the events and interviews that he did make, his thoughts came across as jumbled, confused and like he had been bottling up a lot of his thoughts for a while and then they all came out in a completely disorganized jumble.
Then, when it came time to fight he seemed to never really be in the fight at all. He had a few moments standing up, but the fight went to the mat most of the time and when it was there most of his offensive attempts were nullified and the fight was all GSP. To many critics, this was the epitome of Nick Diaz; he talks a lot and has big words, but when it comes time for the actual fight, he was quite simply unable to deliver.
I’d say that while it is a fairly accurate argument and that most of us had an understanding that the fight would go exactly as it did, the outcry for people to stop supporting Diaz or making a hero out of him is as tired as it has ever been. Those critics have put aside the ability to take an objective look as to why Nick Diaz appeals to fans as strongly as he does and why he is so relatable to many.
The reality of Nick Diaz is that he is a very public figure and he is an incredibly, deeply flawed individual. He has problems controlling his temper, his problems with authority would take years of intense therapy to make any progress, his anxiety can sometimes get the better of him and he just isn’t that great at communicating sometimes. These traits were on full display in the postfight press conference where Dana White announced that Nick wouldn’t be there. A by-the-books UFC presser then unfolded until Nick Diaz came out and sat in the audience and started talking.
It would have been like a scene from a movie or something that a professional wrestler would do to align himself with the people, to show that he isn’t some stuffy suit, that he is a man of the people. It didn’t feel like that, though, instead it felt like everyone was walking on eggshells to get the best, most ludicrous quotes out of Diaz to run as headlines. Nick was trying to play the game and trying to show that he can play the game on his own terms, but it was clear that he was uncomfortable with the whole situation and was forcing himself to do it.
This wasn’t a fallen hero showing that he still has the fire, it was a confused, upset and anxious guy who felt a world of pressure on him to do something that he didn’t want to do. So he did it, or at least he did something, and everyone has been trying to make sense of it. I’m not sure that there is any sense to be made of it. Nick Diaz’s troubled past has been pretty well-documented; he was a troubled kid whose troubles have followed him into his adult life and just when it seems like he might be adjusting, something goes wrong.
Nick’s appeal isn’t that he is right when he does something weird, it isn’t that when he speaks he is speaking universal truths and it isn’t that he is the best fighter in the world. The appeal is that Nick just wants to fight, Nick wants to fight away the things that he hates and that have brought him down, he wants people to listen to him even if he isn’t sure what he wants to say and he wants to be left alone even if he’s still talking. Everyone who considers themselves a Nick Diaz fan probably has some sort of understanding of what Nick Diaz is going through, the inner turmoil and frustration and that is how he connects with audiences, even if he isn’t the most educated, well-spoken or professional fighter in the world.
Nick Diaz is the best Nick Diaz that he can be, even if that Nick Diaz is broken and flawed.