Leading up to the biggest fight of his life this weekend at the UFC’s third live show on Fox, Nate Diaz has had to answer more than a few questions on behalf of his brother.
Of course, this will only strike you as odd if you don’t know who Nate Diaz’s brother is, and if you’ve spent any time at all around MMA, if you are indeed reading this right now, that’s probably impossible.
Even as he stands poised for an opportunity at becoming the No. 1 contender for the UFC lightweight title, Nate remains the lesser known of the fighting Diaz men. His older brother, Nick -- he of the impulsive retirement announcement and ongoing marijuana suspension -- remains the bigger draw, the bigger perceived talent and in most tangible ways the all-around bigger deal.
All of this is despite the fact Nate actually has three more UFC appearances (15, in all) and three more Octagon wins (10) than Nick. Despite the fact he’s proven to be the more reliable Diaz, the kindler/gentler Diaz and -- if all goes well on Saturday night -- stands a decent chance of going on to become the first Diaz to wear UFC gold.
Also, you know, not to mention the fact that if we take him at his own word, Nick Diaz’s MMA career is already over.
Among two different men, such an unequal dynamic might be a problem -- but not with these two. Throughout his career, Nate Diaz has consistently credited his brother not only as a coach and training partner but also lists him first on his official UFC profile page when asked: Do you have any heroes?
We have no sense at all that Nate Diaz wants to fight his way out of his brother’s shadow. In a sport where fighters are seemingly constantly leaving one training facility for another over some perceived slight, where egos run rampant and where there are as many spats and hurt feelings outside of the cage as inside, there has never been a hint of significant strife between the Diaz brothers.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite. When asked about his brother’s future this week, Nate Diaz contended that Nick still isn’t interested in returning to the cage (despite the fact he has a lawsuit pending against the Nevada State Athletic Commission) and in his brother’s stead he (Nate, that is) will carry the family’s honor into battle on Saturday night against Jim Miller.
“I feel like I perform for both of us," Nate said during open workouts in New York. "I don’t want to let my team down; my brother down. He helps coach me, and I hope I can go out there and do good and make everyone look good."
Nate Diaz came to the UFC as a work in progress in 2007 and the fact that we’ve watched him experience some growing pains along the way -- while his brother was dominating the competition in EliteXC and Strikeforce -- likely has a lot to do with why we continue to view him as the lesser of two Diazes. Only in recent appearances have we started to see what he’s truly capable of, with his first round submission of Takanori Gomi and thorough beatdown of Donald Cerrone in 2011.
If he defeats Miller to solidify his status as No. 1 contender, we might have to start thinking of him on equal footing with his better known brother. If he becomes UFC champ, well, then he might wake up one day and find himself the more accomplished of the two.