What makes Diaz brothers so popular? 'They're sort of marketing geniuses'

·Combat columnist
·5-min read

Nick Diaz hasn’t fought in six-and-a-half years, and fans still clamor for his return and bombard the internet with potential matches when a rumor of his return arises.

His younger brother, Nate, has only fought slightly more often but has developed into one of the biggest draws in mixed martial arts.

It’s a curious thing that makes the Diaz brothers so popular. Since Nick last fought, on Jan. 31, 2015, Nate has fought five times, going 3-2. He hasn’t been in the Octagon since he lost to Jorge Masvidal in the so-called BMF title fight in front of then-President Trump at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 2, 2019.

The doctor stopped the fight after the third round because of cuts Diaz sustained. Diaz, of course, didn’t agree with it.

Asked about it, he said, “[Expletive], man. Everybody knows I ain’t no [expletive] quitter and there’s no [expletive] way that [expletive] fight should have been stopped.”

Nate Diaz will return to the Octagon on Saturday against third-ranked welterweight Leon Edwards at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona, in one of the featured fights of UFC 263. He's a long-shot underdog, sitting at +375 at BetMGM. But so popular is Diaz and fans want to see him in the cage as much as they can, that even though it’s not the main event, it will be a five-rounder.

This is the first time in UFC history there was a non-title fight that was not the main event that is scheduled for five rounds. There would have been an uproar from the fan base if the fight was three instead of five rounds.

Nate Diaz fights against Jorge Masvidal (not pictured) at UFC 244 on Nov. 02, 2019. (Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
Nate Diaz fights against Jorge Masvidal (not pictured) at UFC 244 on Nov. 02, 2019. (Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

The Diaz brothers are beloved because of their fearless attitude. They have always been able willing to fight anyone, often including UFC management.

That’s led to long stretches of inactivity. In Nick’s case, it’s been a semi-retirement.

But UFC president Dana White suggested this week that Nick Diaz would return before the end of the year and it almost broke the internet. Gushing headlines were all over MMA sites about the news, which was not really much news at all.

Chris Kolodzke of Las Vegas calls himself “a Diaz fan, not necessarily a UFC fan.” He’ll make the five-plus-hour drive to Glendale on Saturday to see Nate Diaz fight, then make the trek back on Sunday. He has to be at work at 4 in the morning on Monday, but Diaz is such a priority for him, he is going out of his way to see him in person.

“Can’t miss my boy in there,” Kolodzke said.

Hunter Campbell, the UFC’s chief business officer, said there are many fans who feel the same way as Kolodzke.

Their fearlessness isn’t the only reason for their popularity. There are dozens of fighters who are tough and seek out the baddest opponents, but they don’t have nearly the popularity of either Nick or Nate.

A story Campbell related about Nick Diaz probably best explains the odd appeal.

Nick Diaz began fighting at lightweight, and had a few bouts at middleweight, but the bulk of his career was as a welterweight. Several years ago, Campbell was talking to him about a return.

“I asked him, ‘OK, Nick, what are you thinking?’ ” Campbell said. “And he tells me, ‘I want to fight Daniel Cormier.’ I’m like, ‘Nick, you do realize that Daniel Cormier is a heavyweight and you’re a welterweight, don’t you?’ And he said, ‘I know but I’m a [expletive] G.’ And he was dead serious.”

Nate Diaz has become one of the biggest draws in the sport, along with Conor McGregor and a handful of others.

To Campbell, it’s not that hard to explain.

“The Diaz brothers are as authentic as anyone in the sport,” he said. “Who you see on TV is exactly who they are. There is no pretense or front with them. What you see is who they are. They’re the guys I deal with. And in their own way, they’re sort of marketing geniuses.

“They know how to speak to their fan base and they know how to resonate. People love them because they’re exactly who they are. They’ll fight anyone and they seek out not only the toughest fights, but really interesting fights.”

In 2019, when Nate Diaz returned after three years away to fight former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, he railed on some of the sport’s stars, including then-lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and future welterweight champion Kamaru Usman.

Yahoo Sports asked Diaz what excited him about fighting Edwards, who is unbeaten since losing to Usman in 2015.

“None of these other [expletives] want to step up and get their asses beat,” he said with a snarl.

When he returned to fight Pettis at UFC 241, he complained that fighters didn’t market themselves and didn’t take big fights.

“This fight is keeping me away from all the lame fighters that aren’t doing [expletive], getting love, then not doing anything with it,” he said in response to why Pettis got him to return. Then, speaking of Nurmagomedov and Usman, he added, "I feel like I’m just better and cooler than those guys. What the hell would I want to fight them for? Pettis is cooler than both of them fight-wise, you know what I’m saying?”

With his brother on the verge of a return, Nate vowed to remain active. But he won’t accept the blame if he doesn’t get the fights he wants after Edwards.

“Man,” he said, scowling, “these [expletives] are all [expletives] and you can’t get them to [expletive] do anything. What can I do?”

What can he do, indeed.

There aren’t many like the Diaz brothers and for all their quirks, they make this sport so much better to watch.

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