Following years of dismissing Nate Diaz as a legitimate draw, UFC president Dana White has finally seen the light.
It sure did take him a while, though. You’d think those two fights against Conor McGregor in 2016 (which both broke the record for most PPVs sold) would do it. Maybe White just didn’t want to pay the difficult Diaz more. Or maybe he really did think most of the shine was just reflection off McGregor. Either way, there’s no doubt that Nate was the star of UFC 241 on Saturday night. And White is done denying it.
Asked if he thought Diaz may now be on the same level as a Rousey or McGregor, White said “Yeah, yes. It’s pretty tough to deny. Yeah. He’s a needle mover now!”
That’s in reference to a comment White made back in 2014 when he and Nate weren’t getting along very well. “He’s not a needle mover,” White told the press. “His brother [Nick Diaz] is a needle mover, he’s not.”
The needle has moved this time, with UFC 241 breaking the record for largest gate in Californian MMA history. Internet metrics are also showing a ton of interest for UFC 241, and a ton of it is centered around Diaz. One reporter asked White what he thought Nate’s appeal with fans was and here’s what he said.
”I think it’s stuff like I did the fighter meeting and I specifically told him not to swear on ESPN,” White recalled. “And he looked right at me and said ‘motherf**ker’ when he was doing his interview on ESPN! Stuff like that. I read this story - I didn’t read the story, I read the headline - from one of the big papers that wrote a story about this. It said ‘The UFC needs an anti-hero and here he is: Nate Diaz.’ And it’s true.”
”I said it leading up to this fight - he’s the guy that says ‘F**k you’ to the man, but he never really says ‘F**k you’ to the man. He’s always actually ever time I see him, Nate is cool. He just has this thing that people like.”
Whatever that mysterious ‘thing’ was that Nate has, it was on full display after his win over Anthony Pettis. Unlike that 40 minute ESPN interview where you can actually see his social anxiety manifest and shut him down internally, Nate was loose and cool at the post fight press conference. He confirmed he wanted to fight Jorge Masvidal because he’s the best, and he confirmed the fight would be for his imaginary Baddest Motherf**ker belt. We’re all about it.
So it seems like Nate Diaz has turned a corner. He’s no longer leaving it up to the UFC to matchmake or sell him. And the UFC suddenly recognizes Nate could be the next big thing. Now we just have to see whether the two parties can come to a mutually satisfying financial agreement.
”That’s not a good business move to tell me I’m the s**t,” Diaz said with a laugh at the post-fight press conference. “Cuz then I’m gonna be like ‘Gimme the s**t money.’ Gimme some ‘I’m the s**t’ money, feel me?”