After an extended hiatus from the UFC, Nate Diaz returns to the octagon this weekend in one of the more anticipated matchups for UFC 241 where he will take on Sergio Pettis. While I cannot wait to see Nate in the cage again, I could not help after reading so many fawning pieces and social media comments about Diaz that we may have overrated his career; simply because we love watching him fight. I can already feel the tidal wave of wrath hurtling towards my social media shore for even daring to ask the question about the UFC’s fan-favorite badass and Stockton’s own Nate Diaz.
I imagine that most of Diaz fans will hit me with: “shut up nerd, who cares what you think”, “obviously a McGregor fanboy who hates Nate”, or “Nate would kick your ass”, which is expected. However, for those of you who will allow me to explore the above question, I think you might find you’ve allowed the mythology of ‘Nate Diaz’ get in the way of objectively looking at his career, in the context of other Mixed Martial Arts all-time greats that he is regularly & I think incorrectly compared with.
Before I go any further I want to state these ‘perceptions I have about Nate’ as I see them, so you can accurately dismiss my opinion below with at least knowing where my mindset is when I formed my opinion:
- Nate Diaz is by far one of the toughest and craziest competitors to grace the octagon. In a sport absolutely filled with insanely tough people, he is undeniably in the upper echelons of the sport when it comes to ‘toughness’.
- Nate has fought and beaten some of the best fighters this sport has to offer (Conor McGregor, Donald Cerrone, Gray Maynard, Jim Miller) to name a few.
- Nate Diaz’s persona, bravado, and the manner in which he fights are fun to watch and great for the sport.
- I enjoy watching Nate Diaz fight.
I say all the above to let you know this is not an article to take a dig at Nate Diaz or his career. He’s absolutely had a Hall of Fame UFC career no matter how the rest of his time in the UFC goes. I ask “if Nate Diaz is overrated” because in the social media age we’ve allowed fighters packaging to obfuscate our ability to assess their careers accurately. The prime or best versions for the ‘majority of MMA fighters’ starts around their mid-20’s and ends sometime before they get to 35 years old. This is the part of Nate’s career that I want to focus: It starts around Nate’s first bout against Gray Maynard in 2010 and covers up to his last loss against Conor McGregor in 2016. Over this 9 year and 15 fight span or prime of his career, Nate Diaz is 8-7.
Diaz fans will point out he lost to absolute monsters and they are correct. Nate has lots of losses against elite fighters. However, the mystique around Diaz is he can beat these guys when his actual records against the top-tier talent of the UFC is not one normally seen by fighters considered all-time greats. There is no shame in losing to Benson Henderson, Josh Thomson, Rafael dos Anjos, Rory MacDonald, and Conor McGregor. However, these were not bad or controversial losses; they were clear losses against fighters who were better than him. Nate repeatedly struggled against high-level strikers who effectively use their kicks along with their speed to disrupt Nate’s dirty boxing or exchanges in the pocket.
Frankie Edgar’s career is one some may make comparable to Nate Diaz’s career since he too has failed against several great champions. I would not compare him to Edgar as he has actually won and defended a UFC title. Nate unlike his brother or Edgar has never won a UFC or Strike Force championship. I don’t think we can even entertain you as an all-time great unless you won a belt and even then a belt does not automatically make you an all-time great. We reserve those pantheons for the truly best fighters of their era, which Nate is unfortunately not part of.
Look, if you think he’s a legend because of his entire package inside & outside the octagon while acknowledging he’s an excellent but not an all-time great fighter; we are in total agreement. In the end, I think Diaz is a victim of his own popularity and fans elevating his fighting career to levels he has not really lived up to. It’s okay to love a fighter’s style or career while also being honest about how good they were at their craft.
The closest comparison in boxing I think Nate compares to is a mixture of Arturo Gatti and Ricardo Mayorga. Both boxers were fan favorites, tough as hell, and had fun styles but ultimately came up short against the elite of their eras. This is who Nate Diaz is and there is no shame in admitting acknowledging it. I will continue to tune in any time he fights and encourage anyone who enjoys combat sports to do so too. Regardless of where some blowhard MMA writer thinks Nate Diaz’s career ranks on some subjective list; tuning in to watch and enjoy a Nate Diaz fight will never be ‘overrated’.
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