The Diaz Appeal
By James Lee
As Nick Diaz makes his return to the octagon this weekend following a six-year absence, it is worth exploring what exactly is so appealing about him and Nate Diaz as a collective.
Ordinarily, a fighter who has not won a professional contest in close to a decade would attract little attention from the fanbase. In fact, it has become customary that most clamour and call for their return to be cancelled, like has been the case recently with many previous legends. Yet, the return of Nick Diaz is contrastingly anticipated; exemplifying the interest of the Diaz brothers.
Such intrigue is different to all that amass mainstream attention in the combat sports world, however. Their professional records don’t tally to that of the usually acclaimed, being champions and those consistently lingering around contendership. They aren’t popular because they offer intricacies in skill like Valentina Shevchenko for example, who occupies the event’s co-main event. They also don’t possess the personality of an Israel Adesanya, the knockout power of a Francis N’Gannou, or even the adulation from one nation like Conor McGregor.
So, it is quite difficult to single out what exactly makes the pair among the top five most popular fighters in the sport currently.
Perhaps it stems from the fact that they bring excitement whenever they compete. The level of excitement for UFC 266 exemplifies as such. Whatever happens during the scheduled fifteen-minute contest, excitement and emotion will prevail, even if Diaz’s return is unsuccessful. However, there are plenty of fighters who are exciting and well-liked, but nowhere near to the level of the Diaz brothers.
Maybe such excitement on the highest-level singles them out. As people reluctantly spend the extensive pay-per-view price, they expect a guarantee. A guarantee of excitement that many do not bring on the most high-profile occasions. Although some favour skill, most of the casual fanbase favour excitement, and the Diaz brothers bring that every time they inhabit a pay-per-view spot.
Maybe the appeal comes from how tough they are. Very few can withstand the punishment they can, and consequently, they create unique moments, as Nate Diaz did against Leon Edwards at UFC 263.
Possibly it is their lack of care about fitting into promotional demands or the monotonous mould of usual fighter antics. As many fighters continually attempt to adapt to the current era of hype following Conor McGregor, the Diaz brothers are real and stay real to themselves, regardless of circumstance.
However, and regardless of what exactly makes them so appealing, the fanbase can expect Nick Diaz to go forward from the opening bell this weekend with a punch-heavy style that will guarantee the fight will meet expectations.
Not the best in the world, but tough and exciting. The ultimate fan-favourite where records are irrelevant and who breaks first is all that matters. Simply, an attempt to finish from the opening bell in the purest form of combat, where nothing else matters but the combat itself.