You just knew this was going to be good—first the fight itself and then the real main event: the post-fight interview.
Mere moments after Nate Diaz turned Gray Maynard into an extra from The Walking Dead on Saturday night at the TUF 18 finale, it was clear we all were in for a treat.
As Maynard staggered off into the spirit world and Diaz took a celebratory strut around the Octagon (flexing, pointing), occasional teammate Ronda Rousey and her excitable crew of coaches celebrated in the front row. There too was big brother Nick at the door to the cage, straining against the arm of perhaps the unluckiest security guy in all the world.
Right then, we could feel the tide rising. It was Diaz time.
Of course, there also was poor Jon Anik—the straightest, most professional straight man we have in this business—charged with the unenviable task of getting Diaz to say words into a microphone on live television.
Who knows what Anik asked; we all forgot the question as soon as Diaz started talking.
“I don’t know what kind of f--king show this is, man,” he said by way of introduction, before pointing at someone or something off camera and adding, “Motherf-ckers be acting silly.”
And we were off.
Admit it: We’ve all kind of missed these regular transmissions from Planet Diaz. With Nick still officially retired and Nate’s first-round TKO of Maynard providing his first win since May, 2012, it had been a while since we were able to get a full, uncensored dispatch out of the 209.
Well, we got a copious dose this weekend. Nate fully did his thing, ignoring Anik’s opening salvo to give shoutouts to everyone in his corner, during which Nick literally took a bow (a bow!). Then Nate called out damn near everyone in the lightweight title picture, throwing his arm around Gilbert Melendez to reinforce the notion that when one Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu team member gets a win, they all do.
“Just so everybody knows,” Diaz said, “the No. 1 and No. 2 lightweights in the world are me and my man (Melendez) right here … this is our division. We’re going to beat your asses. That’s what’s up.”
Melendez—far and away one of the NorCal-based team’s most reasonable members—did his best to smile and nod along. At one point during Diaz’s soliloquy, though, Melendez dropped his eyes and seemed to sort of shake his head as if to say, “No, that’s not really true.”
Indeed, there was a lot Diaz didn’t acknowledge in his post-fight speech. He didn’t acknowledge the fact that he came into this bout on a 0-2 skid, or that Melendez is just 1-1 in his first two UFC appearances. He didn’t acknowledge rumors that his brother has turned down a couple of fights in recent months or speculation he would head back to welterweight after this victory.
When the Diaz brothers talk, the truth is relative and facts take a backseat to the show. But at least the show is fantastic. Nick and Nate have long been among the most entertaining fighters in MMA, their performances in the cage almost always paling in comparison to their work on the mic.
This night was no exception.
Diaz got started early, tweeting when the fight was announced back in September that he’d rather attend his high school reunion than take on Maynard for a third time. He kept up with the gag on fight night, reiterating that he still would have rather gone to the reunion and only fought Maynard because, “I was broke, so I had to show up.”
@ufc Cant make it november 30th ive gotta high school reuinion i have to tend too...— Nathan Diaz (@NateDiaz209) September 23, 2013
He sure fought like he needed the money. Diaz wasted little time once the UFC actually managed to get him in the cage with Maynard. He stunned the former Michigan State wrestler with a short left hand midway through the first round and then opened up with a barrage of punches that left Maynard out on his feet.
Referee Yves Lavigne’s stoppage felt tardy, a fact underscored when a bloody and oblivious Maynard took a few steps and then fell on his face. Diaz flexed and flashed signs at the camera as he shouted expletives probably best lost to the inaudible depths of history.
He continued flexing—metaphorically, at least—at the post-fight press conference. Once on the dais, Diaz lampooned the rest of the 155-pound division, pointing out they’d all have his less-than-stellar win-loss record (he’s 17-9) if they fought as much as he does.
When somebody asked what was next for him, he said he would take the shortest path to the lightweight title—by waiting for somebody else to pull out with injury.
“I don’t know,” Diaz said. “I’m thinking maybe I’ll sit on the sidelines for a good long minute until somebody gets injured, then fight for a title like everybody else is doing.”
That’s when we knew for sure: It felt good to have these guys back in the fight game and back in the winner’s circle.
Nobody does fight night theater quite like the Diaz brothers and—love them or hate them—the MMA world is a lot more interesting when they are relevant—interesting, and a lot more challenging.
Flash back to the cage, where Anik refused to give up on the idea of a give-and-take interview with Diaz. In closing, he offered up one of the UFC’s most standard questions to a winning fighter:
“Can you talk us quickly through the combinations?” he asked. “Obviously the throw was huge, but the combinations were on point.”
“Yeah, yeah, I won,” Diaz said, his tone suggesting he was dismissing a door-to-door Bible salesman. “That’s what’s up.”
Then he gave some more shoutouts. Chris Diaz, Nick McDermott, Rousey, the homegirl. Ivan Somebody.
“We got to go,” he said. “I’ve got sh-- to do. I’m hungry.”
And … scene.