It seems ridiculous to introduce Nick Diaz in generic terms, which is customary during these early sentences. Like describing him as a “UFC fighter,” or a “former number one contender,” or some other such simplified nonsense. That might work for a guy with half a personality, working out a stereotypical Choose Your Own Adventure, 60-page children’s book of a fighting career. But Nick, like his competitor Anderson Silva, has been around since the golden age of MMA in Japan’s Pride. And despite his status as a relatively young MMA elder, his persona really belongs in the adult’s section of a comic book store. He fits in that exciting mirrored corner where lonely 18-year-olds take their first awkward steps towards manhood, care of obscene cartoonish renditions of otherwise classic heroes.
That is Nick Diaz in a nutshell. He is an awkward hero of sorts, offensively over-hyped according to some, but a hero nonetheless. And if that characterization bothers you, I suppose you can go f*ck your mother, as Nick has helpfully recommended in the past.
Of course, I’ve already managed to simplify Nick Diaz, portraying him as some neurotic thug with Tourette’s Syndrome who happens to have a natural flair for combat. But despite meeting the superficial qualifications for a damaged hooligan in any boxing gym across the country, Nick really is a legitimate hero. Because he’s Rousimar Palhares on Sativa, a metaphorical heel-hooker with a heart of gold. Yes, there is a critical touch of vulnerability behind all his abrasiveness. Don’t understand? Then you need to pay more attention.
Now take a moment to watch that Countdown to 183 again and notice that, despite his recent struggles, Anderson Silva compares himself in a roundabout way to Michael Jordan. “Michael Jordan had magical moments,” he says, roundaboutedly. “You’d say, ‘How did that guy do that?’ You can make your achievements eternal. But you’ll never be eternal.” Granted, Anderson probably deserves to do so. If he isn’t Jordan in fight shorts, then our sport probably lacks a #23. Still, whenever a man hints that his unredeemed legacy should be compared to that of another, it is a bit telling.
But Nick Diaz doesn’t fancy himself anyone but Nick Diaz. That’s a refreshing perspective, given his genuine entitlement to claim at least a portion of the sport’s competitive throne. After all, who would he be, if not himself? He is frighteningly erratic from a promotional standpoint, dangerously unpredictable from a competitive standpoint, and one THC-clouded exhale away from being a dominant champion. If that last statement is a bit too enthusiastic given his resume, I don’t care. Perhaps I am just another contact-high victim of his accidental spell. But the wonder of Nick’s personality is that he isn’t intentionally trying to fool anybody. And if, by sheer temperamental accident, he can make a dazed believer of me, then he’s at least doing something right in this declining age of watered-down MMA.