Is Nick Diaz good for MMA?

On April 11, Strikeforce’s main event will feature Nick Diaz vs. Frank Shamrock on Showtime. While Shamrock’s image is that of a fighter dedicated to progressing the sport of MMA, Diaz seems to be the polar opposite. Nick openly admits that he loves the combat of MMA but, as for progressing the image of the sport, or himself, he does not care. Is this type of fighter good for MMA? Or is he detrimental to the image the sport is so desperately trying to keep clean?

Shamrock’s return to the sport, after an already illustrious career through the 90’s, was inspired by the increased popularity of the sport he loves. He has also been instrumental in cleaning the image of the MMA fighter from that of a bloodthirsty thug to that of a highly trained professional athlete.

In stark contrast, Diaz cares not for the image he projects. He just loves to fight. Nick will not hesitate to publicly insult his opponents. He frequently displays obscene hand gestures. He has also been known to drop “F” bombs at any time.

Make no mistake; Diaz is no mindless street punk who simply enjoys confrontation and inflicting pain. As a professional fighter his resume is extensive. Nick is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Cesar Gracie, as well as a professional boxer having trained with such champions as Olympic Gold Medalist Andre Ward.

Having compiled an MMA record of 19-7, he has fought anyone and everyone from the U.S. to Japan. Diaz is a former champion of both the IFC and the WEC. Nick has also competed in the UFC, PRIDE, and EliteXC. He is the highly trained professional athlete the sport is so vigorously trying to put into the public eye.

The difference between Nick and other MMA fighters is that he refuses to “play ball.” While the MMA community is busy trying to portray good sportsmanship and convey competition as the motivation of the modern day MMA fighter, Diaz refuses to put on a charade for the sake of mainstream media acceptance.

In this era of political correctness most fighters will posture before an event with comments like “I’m going to knock him out,” or “He’s not on my level.” Then as soon as the fight is stopped and the winner’s hand is raised one, or both, will inevitably thank their opponent for the opportunity to fight them. Then they will complement their heart and skill. On occasion they will even offer to train together in the future, and state the disrespect prior to the fight was all just hype. Not Nick Diaz.

At the Strikeforce press conference on Wednesday, Diaz was introduced as Frank Shamrock’s next opponent. As Shamrock extended his hand in a show of sportsmanship. Nick refused the handshake and presented Shamrock with his middle finger, which is rapidly becoming his trademark.

In November of 2007 Diaz gifted an entire arena in Corpus Christi, Texas with two middle fingers as he angrily disagreed with a referee’s stoppage of an EliteXC title fight with K.J. Noons. This seems to be the real Nick Diaz, not some show for the cameras to hype his fights. It would appear his motivation is genuine dislike for all his opponents, be it for one reason or another.

The question is, does MMA need a bad boy like Nick Diaz? Is he good for the sport? I say yes. I grow tired of the standard answers given by fighters during interviews. Yes sportsmanship and competition is important, but genuine emotion is needed in a sport where the athletes are constantly trying to walk the straight and narrow for fear of looking too barbaric.

Prior to Wednesday’s press conference, Nick was interviewed by and was quoted as saying “All this classy stuff is sort of derived from us trying to get this sport out. They’ve done their job”.

This sport is MMA. Grown men and women are paid thousands of dollars to smash each others face in and choke one another unconscious. It should not be without emotions like hate and anger. That is what draws us in.

We are captivated by the stories behind the fights about why these two highly skilled fighting machines want to go to war with one another. “That’s not my job to make this sport look like it’s not warfare, and like it’s a tennis match, because it’s not,” Diaz said. “Nobody has class here, we’re cage fighters.”

No matter what you think about Nick Diaz as a person, no matter how his antics are perceived by MMA fans and executives, it is undeniable that he is like no other fighter in MMA today. He wears his emotions on his sleeve and will always tell you exactly how he feels. “All this stuff is doing is taking the technical aspect out of the sport and making us play ball. And I f*ck*ng hate playing ball,” Diaz remarked. 

His attitude in my opinion is refreshing and entices me to watch his fights in order to experience something that is real, not politically correct. MMA needs bad boys like Diaz just as much as it needs good guys like Shamrock.

As for how Nick Diaz feels about Frank Shamrock, it’s no secret. Shamrock defeated his long time mentor, Cesar Gracie, in March of 2006. Frank knocked out the then 40 year old Gracie in 21 seconds. “I definitely don’t like Frank for the same reasons that other people don’t like Frank. I’m sure I have a few reasons why I don’t like him. Those are probably my own reasons,” Diaz said.

Tune in to Showtime on April 11th to see how genuine drama plays out for MMA’s baddest, bad boy.

By:  Ted Smith

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