The non-public jet taxied into its hangar in Phoenix on Sunday, shortly after 5 p.m. native time. It carried passengers who had boarded a few hours earlier in Stockton, California. However they have been on a protracted, unusual journey for years.
Nate Diaz arrived for UFC 263 with pals who keep in mind when he would present up in a bullet-riddled Honda or using in a good friend’s ’95 Chrysler Sebring. The mode of transportation is totally different today, however Diaz is basically the identical — the uncommon celebrity who’s been capable of keep an authenticity that retains the bond of this crew tight.
You realize it should be a BIG combat week when @NateDiaz209 arrives on a non-public jet 🛩
— UFC_Asia (@UFC_Asia) June 8, 2021
Diaz, 36, began in Brazilian jiu-jitsu when he was about 14, partly as a result of he knew the fitness center would supply scorching meals after periods. Underneath the tutelage of the famend Cesar Gracie, and following within the footsteps of his brother Nick Diaz, Nate developed right into a BJJ black belt, and he would change into recognized for artistic submissions and a trademark strike symbolic of his combative upbringing: the Stockton Slap. His success within the Octagon, together with successful The Final Fighter 5 in 2007, and his lack of pretense endeared him to a big and dependable fan base. Now he is one of the vital standard fighters on the planet, rubbing elbows with celebrities resembling Leonardo DiCaprio and Publish Malone.
On Saturday, he fights Leon Edwards in a pivotal five-round welterweight bout at UFC 263 in Glendale, Arizona. It is not the principle occasion and even the co-main, however Diaz-Edwards is arguably essentially the most anticipated contest on a stacked pay-per-view card that options two championship bouts. The winner might get a shot at welterweight champion Kamaru Usman.
As Diaz stepped off the airplane, he was surrounded by teammates and pals who know the UFC celebrity on a special degree than his public-facing persona because the mean-mugging, weed-smoking little brother of Nick. They know the man with the good humorousness, who was a very good sport when a “Jimmy Kimmel Dwell!” skit backfired on him. They know the loyal good friend who as soon as crammed the fridge of a buddy who was down on his luck. And so they keep in mind the man who knew when it was time to take over. These are their tales.
[Editor’s note: Some content was edited for brevity and clarity.]
The early days
‘My first time seeing Nate combat’
Nick McDermott is certainly one of Diaz’s oldest and closest pals, and he’s at present his photographer.
He was stepping into fights loads as a child. If anyone had something to say, he’d be like, “Properly, let’s combat.”
There was one time on the baseball area in Morada. Some older child and Nate have been speaking s— to one another. Nate was in all probability like 11 or 12 years outdated. The man was with a bunch of individuals.
Nate received all his pals collectively and was like, “This man is speaking s—.” All of them went over there, and this child and Nate fought for like a half-hour. This child was like three or 4 years older than Nate, however it was a fairly loopy combat. That was my first time seeing Nate combat. I might say Nate received, however it was a protracted, loopy combat.
‘These guys have been actually poor’
Cesar Gracie is a legendary Brazilian jiu-jitsu coach and was Diaz’s first martial arts coach.
He began with me when he was about 14. I feel Nick was 16. These guys have been actually poor. Nate did not have cash to go seize meals or something. He began coaching in jiu-jitsu often because after we might prepare, we would all go get one thing to eat. We might go purchase meals — tacos or one thing. It was fairly low-cost. The taco vehicles have been fairly widespread in Stockton.
It was a technique to go, “Properly, I am hungry, and if all I’ve to do is go do jiu-jitsu and field, everyone goes to eat? Nice.”
‘There was blood everywhere in the automobile’
Rudy Hernandez is a childhood good friend of Diaz’s and a longtime coaching associate.
We have been hanging out in Constitution Approach, which wasn’t too good of a neighborhood in Stockton. We received into an altercation, and certainly one of our pals received shot within the arm.
Everybody took off. We threw our good friend within the automobile and we’re driving to the hospital. It was me, Nathan and our good friend. It was simply loopy. There was blood everywhere in the automobile, however he made it.
Nathan was calm. I feel he is seen loads rising up. He does not speak about it.
‘We have been sort of the comedian aid’
Gilbert Melendez is a former Strikeforce light-weight champion, a UFC veteran and longtime Diaz coaching associate. He remembers grappling periods underneath the watchful eyes of former Strikeforce champion Jake Shields, who coached Melendez, and Nick Diaz.
My first encounters with Nate have been grappling on the mat with him. They have been very silent and quiet periods, and we simply adopted the course of our coaches.
Because it went on, we actually linked as a result of we had plenty of enjoyable and would chuckle, and we have been simply related. We loved the journey.
I do not suppose our objectives have been to be the hardest on the planet on the time. We have been sort of the comedian aid with Jake and Nick being so rattling severe. That is how Nate is. He is an enormous chief, he is an enormous captain. However he additionally simply retains everybody actually linked. He lights up a room when he is available in. Not simply due to who he’s or what he is finished, however even earlier than that. He simply had that along with his boys and his crew. Till this present day, he retains true to that.
‘The Stockton Slap is actual, bro’
Andre Ward is a retired boxing champion and present ESPN boxing analyst who began coaching with Diaz round 2010.
I labored with him for years throughout my skilled boxing profession, particularly after I fought a lefty. He offered a few of the most troublesome work I’ve had as knowledgeable. He is left-handed, and I do not usually have points with left-handers, however Nate is awkward. He throws plenty of punches from awkward angles.
And the Stockton Slap is actual, bro. It isn’t prefer it hurts. It is simply disrespectful. Like, you actually hit me with that? After which increase, increase. He hits you with extra photographs. It is extra quantity than it’s energy.
And he does not get drained. He can take it, he can dish it out. I needed to convey my A-game each time.
‘They did not notice he was gone’
Joe Lauzon is a UFC veteran and former castmate with Diaz on The Final Fighter 5.
He clearly does not love doing media, however he has gotten higher. I keep in mind after we needed to do the UFC photograph shoots for The Final Fighter. The UFC was horrible about photographs. Now they take like 15 minutes from whenever you present as much as whenever you go away. However it used to take like two hours, in the event you have been fortunate.
Nate was proper earlier than me and was sick of ready. So he left and ran like 6 miles again to the resort in Las Vegas. They did not notice he was gone for some time and needed to monitor him down, and he made them ship one other automobile to go and choose him up. I used to be dying laughing and knew precisely how he felt.
‘He tossed me round like a rag doll’
Maynard James Keenan is a multiple-Grammy-winning singer, songwriter and musician. He’s greatest often known as the previous lead singer of Instrument. He is additionally a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt.
I’ve rolled Brazilian jiu-jitsu with Nate a bit of bit. Properly, he rolled on me. He tossed me round like a rag doll. We did what resembled rolling.
While you’re rolling with any person like Nate Diaz — and I might think about somebody like Demian Maia — it is a complete totally different degree of understanding of the artwork. I might get into geeky particular stuff, however actually simply watching the transitions. It’s a must to study them and really feel them.
It was fairly the “Holy s—, I’ve a lot to study.” Nate did not must submit me. You possibly can see, no matter adjustment he simply made there’s 5 submissions from proper there and he did not even trouble taking them. It was simply staring us all within the face and it was like, “Oh god.”
‘Flip off the clock’
Daniel Roberts is a UFC veteran and former Diaz coaching associate.
I used to be staying in his guesthouse for just a few weeks, there to assist him earlier than his combat with Benson Henderson in 2012. I am a fairly good grappler as properly. So we have been sort of going, and it was a stalemate. He was like, “Who is that this man?” Then he was like, “Flip off the clock.” And finally he handed my guard. He has loopy endurance. That was humorous. No clock. I used to be like, “Oh man.”
And he eats actually wholesome. It was after the combat; I went to McDonald’s. Nick came visiting and was like, “Whose McDonald’s is that?” It was such a shock. Like I simply dedicated a criminal offense or one thing. “Who’s consuming this crap?” I feel I received a Gatorade, like Gatorade is wholesome. They have been like, “Who received a Gatorade?” I assumed I used to be doing good. Nate eats plenty of gluten-free stuff. Very clear. Natural. I might style the distinction too, and I felt the distinction after I was on the market.
‘Everybody wants a good friend like Nathan Diaz’
Hernandez remembers a time Diaz displayed the depth of his friendship.
I received run over by a automobile in Las Vegas in 2012. I’ve received a titanium bar in my leg, and I am over right here considering I wasn’t going to stroll once more. I needed to go to surgical procedure as a result of it was a compound fracture of my proper femur. I used to be within the hospital for just a few days.
Nathan pops up. I did not inform him; he discovered. He took the subsequent flight out, and he introduced me a complete bunch of nutritional vitamins from Entire Meals. He was like, “Do not take that s—. Do not take the ache tablets. Take this, as a result of this does this. In the event you’re feeling some sort of means, hit some weed or one thing.” He introduced me a complete bunch of all-natural herbs, like therapeutic stuff.
It was good to see him. Everybody wants a good friend like Nathan Diaz — everyone. I used to be struggling, working half time and paying lease in a Vegas house round that very same yr. He might have gotten his personal resort room, however he stayed with me. He wished to see what’s up, see how I used to be doing.
“He is an enormous chief, he is an enormous captain. However he additionally simply retains everybody actually linked. He lights up a room when he is available in. Not simply due to who he’s or what he is finished, however even earlier than that. He simply had that along with his boys and his crew. Till this present day, he retains true to that.”
He noticed my fridge was empty. He went to Smith’s and acquired groceries. I assumed, “Oh, he is simply going to sit back all week.” After which he left the subsequent day. I used to be like, “You possibly can take them.” He was like, “Canine, do not journey. It is all good.” Simply caring for me. He ain’t gotta inform you, he is simply gonna present you.
‘Nate will set you up like that’
Nate knew what was going to occur, which was the humorous half.
Kron had by no means met Steve in his life, and Steve is like, “You Gracies, you guys are overrated.” Kron is like, “Who the hell is that this man?” Steve is like, “You have received that choke from the again, the rear-naked choke. You suppose it really works. I wager you I can get out of it.”
Kron is an achieved grappler. He grabs Steve and he places him within the choke and goes, “OK, on three. One, two …”
Steve had a Taser on him, and he tased Kron’s leg. Nate is on the aspect, laughing. Kron lets go of the choke and begins chasing Steve across the fitness center. They are going forwards and backwards like a sketch comedy present. Nate will set you up like that.
‘You guys have to purchase some new belts’
Mikey Singh Hothi is a member of the Lodi, California, metropolis council, a pupil of Nate Diaz’s and a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt.
Our Brazilian jiu-jitsu fitness center at Nick Diaz Academy is infamous for belts and the way difficult it’s to get one. Lots of people from different gyms have been transferring over to ours as a result of clearly they wished to coach with Nate and Nick. So we would have a bunch of those blue belts from lesser gyms coming by means of, and we have been sort of infamous for demoting them.
There have been three of us white belts on the mat, and there have been three blue belts from totally different gyms that have been there. He had a white belt roll with every of the blue belts from the opposite gyms. And each single blue belt received tapped out by a white belt.
Afterwards, he had everyone line up and he stated, “OK, everyone take off your belts.” All of us put our belts on the bottom. I used to be like, “Oh my god, that is the second I’ll get my blue belt.” I used to be actually excited. He came visiting and picked up the three white belts that have been on the bottom and he gave them to the blue belts, like, “OK, you guys have gotta put on these now.”
And he picked up the three blue belts on the bottom, checked out us and was like, “You guys have to purchase some new [white] belts” and simply walked off the mat.
The turning level
‘He figured it out’
After arguably one of many best callouts in UFC historical past, Nate Diaz explains to reporters why he determined to name out then-featherweight Conor McGregor again in 2015.
Randy Spence is Diaz’s coach, longtime coaching associate and good friend.
Nathan was a soldier. He simply did what he was instructed. I feel in the long term it helped him out as a result of he received to see all of the intricacies to see how the whole lot labored.
Then when it was time for him to return out of his shell and make his transfer, he was a bit of forward of the sport. When the time was proper for him, he was like: I can not be a soldier, it is time for me to be the boss.
He made that transfer proper across the Rafael dos Anjos combat in Arizona on Dec. 13, 2014. He is right down to combat dos Anjos, however the circumstances weren’t nice [Diaz lost by unanimous decision]. He was sort of harm, and he was like, “I’ll combat top-of-the-line guys on the planet and I am probably not getting paid.” I feel that was a blessing in disguise. I might say that is when he actually took his personal reins and sort of ran with it. And he figured it out.
After we went to combat Michael Johnson a yr later, I do know it sounds cliché, however he scripted the whole lot that was going to occur. He knew what he was going to do. He knew he was going to win. He knew when he received, he was going to name out Conor McGregor in a means that could not be denied. That was cool to see him make a mission and make it occur. If one thing might personify Nathan outdoors the Octagon, it was that week.
Nick wasn’t combating as a lot anymore, and Jake wasn’t combating as a lot anymore. It was sort of like a turning of the guard. It was like: I sat again and waited and allow them to run their course. He sort of internalized it like: It is my flip to exit and do what I can do. No person ever held him again. He simply knew it was broad open for him.
The McGregor fights
‘Nate has them consuming out of his hand’
Dave Sholler is the previous UFC vp of public relations, athlete advertising and marketing and improvement, and he is the present government vp of communications for the Philadelphia 76ers. He remembers the primary information convention for the Diaz-McGregor combat in March 2016. It occurred in UFC Health club in Torrance, California, and it got here collectively on brief discover after Diaz accepted the combat to switch an injured dos Anjos.
What all the time struck me about Nate Diaz was, some guys within the combat sport are actually good at hamming it up and figuring out when the pink mild on the digicam is on. You get 100 p.c genuine Nate Diaz on a regular basis.
I keep in mind there was one explicit query any person requested in regards to the payday he was going to get from the pay-per-view, like, “What are you going to do with this career-high payday?” Nate was like, “I do not know, in all probability simply going to purchase plenty of s—.” I do not suppose individuals notice Nate is definitely actually humorous. And a few of his pure supply is organically humorous, however when he needs to activate the comedic issue, he is aware of methods to do it as properly.
While you’re within the enterprise of sports activities and leisure, you may really feel within the second when one thing is gold. I seemed out into UFC Health club and I noticed all these followers who confirmed up on brief discover, and Nate had them consuming out of his hand. Conor was doing the identical factor.
Then comes the stare-down. It is one of many coolest stare-downs I’ve ever been part of. You’ve gotten these two guys who’re chock-full of emotion, there’s clearly animosity. It is a packed home, two crews coming collectively — Eire versus Stockton, California. I keep in mind considering, “If one thing goes down right here, that is going to be not solely one of many craziest issues to occur in UFC historical past, however I am unsure we’re going to have the ability to regain management.”
‘I am getting demise threats from followers’
Jon Anik is the pinnacle UFC play-by-play announcer and was the No. 2 broadcaster in that position earlier than Diaz’s UFC 196 combat with McGregor in March 2016. Anik remembers the commotion created when he talked on his podcast earlier than that combat about getting a 209 tattoo as an homage to the Diaz brothers, whose hometown of Stockton has a 209 space code.
I stated on the podcast that if Nate Diaz can beat Conor McGregor with subsequent to no actual preparation, I’ll get this 209 tattoo. Then I stated on the present, I would get it anyway simply out of respect for what these guys meant to martial arts.
I didn’t count on that this might unfold like wildfire. I actually didn’t count on that this might register on Nate Diaz’s radar through the pay-per-view week. What started as a enjoyable podcast bit received interpreted as a tough prediction by the backup play-by-play man towards Nate Diaz.
I am sitting at house and he says on the postfight press convention, “Jon Anik higher get a motherf—ing 209 tattoo or I’ll whoop his little ass.” I am getting demise threats from followers. Like, “If you do not get that f—ing tattoo, I’ll come there and provides it to you myself.”
Candidly, as soon as it drew Nate’s ire to no matter diploma, I used to be getting the tattoo, win or lose. So it clearly made for a greater story that he received the combat. The tattoo on my left arm was inked 5 days later.
I keep in mind just a few months later seeing him for the primary time since I received the tattoo, and he requested to see it. I feel it was a fast burying of the hatchet. He understood that finally this was not me taking a shot at him. He could not have been extra heat and cordial about the entire thing when he simply might have taken it personally.
‘Possibly Hollywood Boulevard Superman goes to get slugged’
Sal Iacono is a author and persona on “Jimmy Kimmel Dwell!” who’s recognized greatest as Cousin Sal.
We now have a bit the place we interview individuals on the road and get them to say dangerous issues about any person, after which that any person is correct there to faucet them on the shoulder. Usually they flip round and so they’re like, “Uh-oh, sorry, I did not imply it” or, “I did not say something.” However we’ve it on tape and we run it again.
After we did it with Nate earlier than his second combat with Conor McGregor in 2016, it was loopy. We sort of cold-called and received individuals from gyms and native MMA academies. We had individuals come right down to Hollywood Boulevard. So we had plenty of fitness center rats on the market with plenty of bravado. Numerous speaking trash towards Nate. Then Nate, good to the bit, comes up from behind and faucets the man on the shoulder. And so they stored going — like idiots. Like, “Yeah, I stated that, and I imply it. Yeah, I stated you have been gonna get your ass kicked. You will not get out of the primary spherical.” I am like, “What the hell is happening right here?” If Nate tapped me on the shoulder, I might run straight into visitors and hope I received hit by a double-decker tour bus proper there on Hollywood Boulevard. These individuals are standing as much as him much more.
He was a very good sport on the primary one, after which the second, he is like, “Hey, what is going on on right here?” After which by the third one, it is like, “I am not going to maintain doing this all day until I get to hit them.” Then it turned on me. I am the prankster of “Jimmy Kimmel Dwell!” I keep in mind for a very good 30 minutes explaining, “Dude, no. I am sorry. I don’t know why that is going the best way it’s.” I did not know who he was going to take it out on. I used to be like, perhaps Hollywood Boulevard Superman goes to get slugged within the jaw.
I felt dangerous for Nate as a result of he did not know what to do. His pure intuition with somebody calling him out is to only elbow the man within the jaw after which be finished with it. He was good sufficient to understand that wasn’t the best way to go on this state of affairs. For a minute, he thought we put them as much as it. “Kimmel Dwell!” doing a prank present and he perhaps thought he was double-crossed. So now I am the man in peril, making an attempt to clarify to him, “No, no, no, these are a bunch of a–holes. I do not know why they appear to be so courageous on this state of affairs.” I by no means, ever thought that will be the result for the bit.
‘Let’s begin the present’
Chris Avila is a former UFC fighter and a Diaz protégé.
I keep in mind going to the UFC 202 press convention, and Nate was on time. They have been saying Conor is late. Nate was like, “I do not care, let’s begin the present.” Dana White was like, “We have gotta begin; it does not matter who’s late.” The press convention began, and Nate is ok with it. Conor is making an attempt to drag certainly one of Nick or Nate’s strikes [by being late], clearly. Nate is doing the convention, and Conor walks in.
Then I see Nate begin getting up. Conor sat down like, “Oh, I am right here.” Proper when Conor sits down, he begins making an attempt to behave all cool and humorous, like he was the present. I noticed Nate stand up and begin strolling out, like, “F— this s—.” He began strolling out and made Conor really feel silly.
Nate had a water bottle at one level, and I feel he threw it at McGregor teammate Dillon Danis and hit Danis. They threw a bottle again at us. Then another person threw a bottle, then they threw one other bottle. There have been simply water bottles throughout for some purpose.
Transferring the needle
‘The nicest man ever’
Travis Barker is the drummer for the punk rock band Blink-182 and a longtime MMA fan.
I filmed a video with TrippyThaKid and Lil Wayne, and Nate simply occurred to be in L.A. He simply frolicked and was within the video. Did not want any particular care, did not ask for something.
These are my favourite individuals. You are not the loudest individuals within the room. Only a nice dangle.
It will be so totally different if I did not know Nate, as a result of I would just be like, “I wager that man has a chip on his shoulder.” He is simply so misunderstood. I feel the baddest motherf—ers are like that, although. They don’t seem to be gonna speak loads or be uncontrolled or be aggressive. Not till you push their buttons otherwise you do one thing out of pocket do you witness that. He is the basic instance of that. Significantly, the nicest man ever. The sweetest man.
‘I received the president coming down right here’
Spence remembers the time President Donald Trump attended UFC 244: Jorge Masvidal vs. Nate Diaz at Madison Sq. Backyard.
It was the primary time the president of the USA ever got here to a UFC combat. Nathan was like, “I received the president coming down right here; this can be a huge deal.” Nathan was stoked on it.
We needed to take the lengthy technique to the sector as a result of they needed to block off some blocks for the president. To not make us wait, they wished him there at three o’clock. Nathan does not function that means. He was like, “Nah.” He would not have fought till midnight. It wasn’t price it, so we simply hoofed it. We received an enormous police escort. We walked about three blocks to the sector. He stopped and talked to everyone on his means in.
After we received there, we have been about to go to our dressing room, however that is when the president was arriving. So we needed to wait within the hallway for nearly 40 minutes to attend for the president to stroll by means of. I do not know what his political opinions are and all that, however the president mainly got here to look at Nathan combat. That is fairly cool.