Nick Diaz Explains His Anxiety and the Way His Mind Works Ahead of a Fight

Damon Martin@@DamonMartinContributor IMarch 15, 2013

Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Nick Diaz (right) against fighter B.J. Penn during a welterweight bout at UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

There may not be a fighter more psychoanalyzed in all of MMA than UFC 158 main event fighter Nick Diaz.

Whether it's his inability to show up for workouts, missing press conferences or unleashing a four-letter worded tirade on an opponent during a media call, Diaz is picked part by fans, media and onlookers alike as everyone tries to play Dr. Melfi to his Tony Soprano.

Some try to diagnose Diaz as having a sort of social anxiety disorder where he just can't deal with the pressure of the lights and crowds that are associated with large gatherings. Others try to point the finger at a behavioral problem that Diaz is just lashing out as an act of rebellion.

On Thursday in one of the most telling interviews he's done to date, Diaz explained how his mind works to Fox Sports host Jay Mohr, starting with the idea that his opponent Georges St-Pierre is somehow scared of him.  In reality to hear Diaz tell it, the fear goes both ways and it's a healthy kind of fear every fighter should feel.

"I have Georges St-Pierre out here telling me 'you really think I'm afraid of you, man?' and I'm like you should be, bro. You should be scared out of your mind.  I'll tell you what, I'm scared of him," Diaz explained.  "I'm scared of any fighter I've ever fought because they are some dangerous people to be dealing with.  That's also where the anxiety comes from."

There is a general idea surrounding Diaz that he hates doing media and keeping commitments for filming obligations and interviews as he gets ready for a fight.  Diaz says that his anxiety has nothing to do with that particular aspect of promoting or pushing a fight.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

"People like to talk a lot about me, about how I have anxiety or social disorders.  I'll admit to anxiety, but it has nothing to do with media or being in front of a camera or being around people.  It has to do with dealing with the sparring that I'm going to have or the workouts that I'm going to have from day to day," said Diaz.

"If you don’t find time to meditate and get all that negative out, and if you don't have the right people being positive around you, this is a very scary job to have if you don’t learn how to control your fear.  Of course I'll admit to anxiety, but it has nothing to do with being in front of the social media."

Digging deeper into his own psyche, Diaz is like a broken record stuck on a loop with only one thought on his mind at all times—the fight in front of him.  Like a soldier who gets locked in a war and can't break away from that even when his or her tour of duty is over, Diaz can't break his focus for even a moment to enjoy a few seconds of levity when his mind is aimed at the fight ahead of him.

"I know what it's doing to me, it's taking up my time and the anxiety comes from the missing time in training, it doesn't come from the media, it doesn't come from being around people, it comes from every couple of seconds all of a sudden I'm starting to laugh when I see a comedy show, I can't even watch a comedy nowadays.

"I think it's healthy for you to laugh and be happy, but sometimes it's hard for me to do because it takes me so far out of that state of mind to where I'm thinking of being smashed with elbows, and all these different ways I can lose," Diaz explained.

"I try to cancel out every possibility of losing the fight, and this runs through my head all day long.  I'm seeing myself become smashed in the face, cut, or being submitted or being knocked out in so many different ways all day long.  That's just my job to train that in my head and when I'm back and forth in a happy mode or a training mode to a happy mode, like I have a really quick shock of anxiety right there and I don't like that feeling."

Keeping his head solely wrapped around the mission at hand is the only way Diaz functions without anxiety, but once that train of thought is derailed it's like a cold blast of water in the face and the sting doesn't go away very easily.

So when Diaz's routine is broken and his mind is interrupted, he isn't at his best and his defense mechanisms set in.

"It enhances my sense of security to just keep my training 100 percent and in the gym, and not miss a workout and otherwise this is the sort of thing that plays into my anxiety," Diaz stated.

For all the naysayers that just believe Diaz is just a bad guy who can't keep his press commitments, there's obviously more to him than meets the eye.  Diaz is a puzzle, and can't be formed into a square. 

The truth is Diaz does care about public perception and what people think about him, but he hopes they also understand how his mind works before judging from the outside looking in.

"As far as factual, realistic information goes and the real fight fans who are going to look in deeper, those are the people that I really care what they think," said Diaz.

The mental health of any competitor has to be taken into account, but when Diaz is at home and when he is at his best is the moment the cage door closes and his mind is only thinking about one thing—the fight in front of him.

Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained first hand unless otherwise noted.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.