UFC 143 Preview: Inside the Complicated Mind of Nick Diaz

Michael EvansCorrespondent IIIFebruary 3, 2012

Nick Diaz has finally earned respect. He probably deserved that seven years ago when he first entered the Octagon, for his first UFC bout, but either way the man should get his props now.

Recently, I harshly and unjustifiably criticized Nick Diaz. I admit my fault there. But anyone who follows MMA knows that Nick Diaz can be tough to root for sometimes. It is an overused statement in this day and age, but Nick Diaz is a polarizing figure. 

Georges St-Pierre dislikes Diaz to the point of rooting for him to beat Carlos Condit, in Las Vegas, this Saturday, at UFC 143. That wouldn't be all that shocking except that they both spend time at the same gym. I guess that shows us how much Nick Diaz gets under the skin of his opponents.

To try and better understand Nick Diaz and the forces that drive him, I will take a brief trip into the psyche of the fighter, and the man that is Nick Diaz.

Like most people I was very upset over the actions of Diaz leading up to UFC 137, not the mention his rant after beating the living hell out of B.J. Penn. Upon further review, I have started to feel much differently about the man.

Anyone who has recently watched the UFC Primetime specials on FX has seen a different side of Nick Diaz that we don't normally see. He is portrayed as a misunderstood fighter, a frustrated warrior, and I think there is some truth to that.

Sure, Diaz has been involved in some altercations. Yes, he tested positive for marijuana after his bout with Takanori Gomi in Japan years ago. But at the end of the day the man is a fighter plain and simple. He brings it every time and leaves it in the cage.

From what I can tell Nick Diaz appears to be a very private guy. He doesn't associate with a lot of people and doesn't trust a lot of people.

When the UFC forces cameras in his face he feels uncomfortable. When he has to field question after question from the media, he gets frustrated. The bottom line is that he just wants to train and fight. That other stuff is not part of the equation to him. He does it simply because of his fans and because he has to do it as part of his contractual obligations, period.

Another thing that we must realize is that Nick Diaz is a smart guy.

He often comes off as a brute, an unintelligent barbarian. That is not the case. The guy is intelligent and he shows it to us in every fight. Muhammad Ali used to psyche out opponents with verbal jabs, in-ring antics and taunts during his bouts. Nick Diaz does the same thing in the modern era.

In the sense of messing with an opponents' head, Nick Diaz is the modern day MMA version of Ali. He is not only a great fighter, he is smart. Diaz, like Ali before him, knows that sports is largely a mental game. Both Diaz and Ali have used their mental edge to gain an upper hand on their opponents. Many others have done the same, but few fighters have ever done it so well.

Diaz constantly mocks and frustrates opponents before, during and after his bouts to throw off his opponents, and it works.

It takes a smart guy to understand the mental game as well as the physical game. Why else would so many current MMA fighters seek the services of sports psychologists?

Ali was also a master of playing possum. He would pretend to be in serious trouble when he was not. He would bait guys in with his famed rope-a-dope technique and then when they were weary he would strike like a coiled king cobra snake.

Nick Diaz moves forward and baits fighters into thinking they can knock him out. They make mistakes and then he capitalizes. Judging by the success he has had of late, it is safe to say that Nick Diaz is on to something.

Lastly, Nick Diaz is a fighter.

Georges St-Pierre has often said that he considers himself a pure sportsman, a martial artist. Nick Diaz is the opposite. He is just there to knock your damn head off. St-Pierre is a finesse and technique guy. Diaz just gets in your face and dares you to stop him. That is a major reason for his appeal, his style is very exciting.

Diaz is many things: He is a private man, he is an athlete, he is a fighter. One thing is sure, he is not dumb. As a matter of fact Diaz is the most cerebral fighter in mixed martial arts. He may also be the most exciting as well. 

At UFC 143 this Saturday February 4, 2012 he takes on top contender Carlos Condit. Condit is also an explosive fighter who couldn't be boring if he tried. Nick Diaz will be his normal foul-mouthed self.

One thing about Diaz is certain, he is a smart man and smart fighter. Anyone who thinks otherwise doesn't understand the mind of Nick Diaz.