Here's a funny experiment I want you to try.
Next time there's a big project coming up at work -- say you're a high school teacher preparing your students for standardized testing or an electrical engineer getting ready for an internal audit -- try telling your boss you won't be able to make it in to work on the big day because, hey, you've got a high school reunion to attend later that night.
If you're lucky enough not to get fired on the spot, be prepared for your boss to shoot you the mother of all stink eyes and chew your ass out like, through some latter-day Ovidian miracle, it had just been transubstantiated into a gristle-laden chicken fried steak from Denny's.
Then, imagine that after you realize "Hey, I kind of need a paycheck to make rent," and reluctantly drag yourself to work on the day of the big reunion, you casually drop the word "motherfucker" into conversation in front of not only your bosses, but your entire office.
That kind of crazy talk just wouldn't fly in pretty much any line of work. Unless of course you happen to be a mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter on the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) roster, like Nate Diaz. In that case, a Baskin Robbins-size scoopful of crazy goes with the territory.
Or, at least those of us who don't get punched in the face for a living often assume so. After all, there's got to be something at least a little off about a person who opts for a career that would be classified as assault if it took place in a bar parking lot rather than inside a steel cage, right?
Then again, perhaps the same goes for us fight fans as well, or even followers of violent sports like football and hockey. When we watch MMA, aren't we all just sublimating the same primal urges fighters feel? Somewhere deep down in the darkest corner of our collective subconscious, isn't there a pre-verbal Just Bleed Guy who gets his vicarious rocks off watching dudes beat the hell out of one another?
If so, that might partially explain why so many MMA fans find it easy to rally behind the Diaz brothers.
It may have been B.J. Penn who brought the phrase "just scrap" into the MMA lexicon, but Nate and Nick Diaz have arguably exemplified that simple, yet evocative motto even more than the Hawaiian who first popularized the outre post-fight ritual of licking his opponent's blood off his gloves.
The thing with a Diaz fight is this: whether it's Nate or Nick, any time either of these two step in the cage you know they're aiming to lay an old-fashioned beatdown on somebody. If the Diaz boys have their druthers -- and let's be real, if most MMA fans' had theirs -- there won't be much wrestling or clinch work in their fights: just forward moving kickboxing and aggressive jiu jitsu.
Obviously, things don't always work out that way for the Diazes. Nick is still mired in a self-imposed exile from active competition after getting taken down and controlled by welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre at UFC 158. Nate has a number of losses on his record to fighters who weren't willing to throw down, according to the 209 Rules of Engagement (and even some who were, like Josh Thomson at UFC on FOX 7).
But when the Diaz boys fire on all cylinders and end up getting their hands raised? That, more often than not, results in a highly entertaining display of the good 'ol ultraviolence.
The sociopathic thug Alex from "A Clockwork Orange" who coined the above phrase would have loved watching Nate Diaz vs. Gray Maynard from last Saturday's (Nov. 30, 2013) The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18 Finale at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada (results). I also thoroughly enjoyed it -- other than the egregiously late stoppage that saw a punchy Maynard absorb far too much punishment -- as I suspect most of you reading this did as well.
Diaz beat Maynard down with the vengeful intensity of an ex-con who just came home from prison and caught his wife in bed with another man. The scrap packer from Stockton mercilessly peppered Maynard with punch after discombobulating punch, after initially rocking him with a left to the jaw. It was thrilling, visceral, and best of all, instantly memorable -- all the things you want from a main event fight in a sport where overexposure is becoming a serious problem.
What made the moment even better though was Diaz's completely off the rails interview after the fight. When UFC announcer Jon Anik attempted to ask Diaz a fairly reasonable question about his win, the victorious fighter, after offering the brief quip, "I won, that's what's up," went off on a tirade about how he and training partner Gilbert Melendez were the two best lightweights in the division.
That loose cannon unpredictability, as much as their aggressive fighting style, is a big part of the Diaz brothers' appeal.
Whether it's Nick popping off gems of unadulterated craziness at press conferences like a human Pez dispenser or his younger brother Nate claiming that Thomson -- a man who just knocked him out in April keep in mind -- needs to "man up" and face him again, you can always count on the Diaz boys to tell it like they see it.
Never mind that how they see it often doesn't jibe with things like "objective reality" and "demonstrable fact." After all, at its best, what fight promotion is all about is emotion.
And it's that raw emotion, both in the cage and on the mic, that makes the Diaz brothers so compelling. Sometimes they bring to mind a 15-car pile up on the freeway that you can't avert your gaze from despite a feeling you probably should -- see Nick's post UFC 158 meltdown where he revealed years of tax evasion to the media for instance -- but at other times the Diazes' unfiltered realness is like an open window letting a breath of fresh air into a room rendered noxious by a gaggle of hot boxing stoners.
Which is a lesson UFC, and the fighters up and down its roster, would do well to learn from. Obviously not everyone in MMA is a Diaz-style misanthrope at heart, but one has got to believe there are more than a few fighters out there who, if they were being real and not concerned with attracting sponsors or some outmoded concept of "what is good for the sport" that was born in the post-John McCain cable blackout period, would display a little more of an attitude inside the cage and on interviews. These are fighters after all, not Nobel laureates, and we are fight fans: a little bit of unhinged mayhem now and then is part of the tacit agreement we all make when we decide to make this sport part of our lives.
Nate Diaz may not have the makings of a model employee in almost any walk of life, but in a business that at its core is all about selling conflict, he's the type of fighter an increasingly homogenized UFC roster could use more of.