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The non-public jet taxied into its hangar in Phoenix on Sunday, shortly after 5 p.m. native time. It carried passengers who had boarded a pair of hours earlier in Stockton, California. But they have been on an extended, unusual journey for years.

Nate Diaz arrived for UFC 263 with friends who keep in mind when he would present up in a bullet-riddled Honda or driving in a good friend’s ’95 Chrysler Sebring. The mode of transportation is totally different lately, however Diaz is basically the identical — the uncommon celebrity who’s been capable of keep an authenticity that retains the bond of this staff tight.

Diaz, 36, began in Brazilian jiu-jitsu when he was about 14, partly as a result of he knew the health club would offer sizzling meals after periods. Under the tutelage of the famend Cesar Gracie, and following within the footsteps of his brother Nick Diaz, Nate advanced right into a BJJ black belt, and he would develop into recognized for artistic submissions and a trademark strike symbolic of his combative upbringing: the Stockton Slap. His success within the Octagon, together with profitable The Ultimate Fighter 5 in 2007, and his lack of pretense endeared him to a big and dependable fan base. Now he is one of the most well-liked fighters on the earth, rubbing elbows with celebrities reminiscent of Leonardo DiCaprio and Post Malone.

On Saturday, he fights Leon Edwards in a pivotal five-round welterweight bout at UFC 263 in Glendale, Arizona. It is not the principle occasion and even the co-main, however Diaz-Edwards is arguably essentially the most anticipated contest on a stacked pay-per-view card that options two championship bouts. The winner may get a shot at welterweight champion Kamaru Usman.

As Diaz stepped off the aircraft, he was surrounded by teammates and friends who know the UFC celebrity on a distinct stage than his public-facing persona because the mean-mugging, weed-smoking little brother of Nick. They know the man with the nice sense of humor, who was a very good sport when a “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” skit backfired on him. They know the loyal good friend who as soon as stuffed the fridge of a buddy who was down on his luck. And they keep in mind the man who knew when it was time to take over. These are their stories.

[Editor’s note: Some content was edited for brevity and clarity.]

The early days

‘My first time seeing Nate combat’

Nick McDermott is one of Diaz’s oldest and closest friends, and he’s at present his photographer.

He was moving into fights quite a bit as a child. If anyone had something to say, he’d be like, “Well, let’s fight.”

There was one time on the baseball area in Morada. Some older child and Nate have been speaking s— to one another. Nate was most likely like 11 or 12 years previous. The man was with a bunch of individuals.

Nate received all his friends collectively and was like, “This guy is talking s—.” They all went over there, and this child and Nate fought for like a half-hour. This child was like three or 4 years older than Nate, nevertheless it was a fairly loopy combat. That was my first time seeing Nate combat. I’d say Nate gained, nevertheless it was an extended, loopy combat.

‘These guys have been actually poor’

Cesar Gracie is a legendary Brazilian jiu-jitsu coach and was Diaz’s first martial arts coach.

He began with me when he was about 14. I believe Nick was 16. These guys have been actually poor. Nate did not have cash to go seize meals or something. He began coaching in jiu-jitsu often because after we might prepare, we might all go get one thing to eat. We’d go purchase meals — tacos or one thing. It was fairly low-cost. The taco vehicles have been fairly widespread in Stockton.

It was a strategy to go, “Well, I’m hungry, and if all I have to do is go do jiu-jitsu and box, everybody is going to eat? Great.”

‘There was blood everywhere in the automotive’

Rudy Hernandez is a childhood good friend of Diaz’s and a longtime coaching accomplice.

We have been hanging out in Charter Way, which wasn’t too good of a neighborhood in Stockton. We received into an altercation, and one of our friends received shot within the arm.

Everyone took off. We threw our good friend within the automotive and we’re driving to the hospital. It was me, Nathan and our good friend. It was simply loopy. There was blood everywhere in the automotive, however he made it.

Nathan was calm. I believe he is seen quite a bit rising up. He would not speak about it.

‘We have been variety of the comedian reduction’

Gilbert Melendez is a former Strikeforce light-weight champion, a UFC veteran and longtime Diaz coaching accomplice. He recollects grappling periods below the watchful eyes of former Strikeforce champion Jake Shields, who coached Melendez, and Nick Diaz.

My first encounters with Nate have been grappling on the mat with him. They have been very silent and quiet periods, and we simply adopted the course of our coaches.

As it went on, we actually linked as a result of we had quite a bit of enjoyable and would giggle, and we have been simply comparable. We loved the journey.

I don’t suppose our targets have been to be the hardest on the earth on the time. We have been variety of the comedian reduction with Jake and Nick being so rattling critical. That’s how Nate is. He’s an enormous chief, he is an enormous captain. But he additionally simply retains everybody actually linked. He lights up a room when he is available in. Not simply because of who he’s or what he is finished, however even earlier than that. He simply had that together with his boys and his staff. Until today, he retains true to that.

The evolution

‘The Stockton Slap is actual, bro’

Andre Ward is a retired boxing champion and present ESPN boxing analyst who began coaching with Diaz round 2010.

I labored with him for years throughout my skilled boxing profession, particularly once I fought a lefty. He supplied some of essentially the most troublesome work I’ve had as an expert. He’s left-handed, and I don’t usually have points with left-handers, however Nate is awkward. He throws quite a bit of punches from awkward angles.

And the Stockton Slap is actual, bro. It’s not prefer it hurts. It’s simply disrespectful. Like, you actually hit me with that? And then increase, increase. He hits you with extra pictures. It’s extra quantity than it’s energy.

And he would not get drained. He can take it, he can dish it out. I needed to deliver my A-game each time.

‘They did not understand he was gone’

Joe Lauzon is a UFC veteran and former castmate with Diaz on The Ultimate Fighter 5.

He clearly would not love doing media, however he has gotten higher. I keep in mind once we needed to do the UFC photograph shoots for The Ultimate Fighter. The UFC was once horrible about photographs. Now they take like quarter-hour from when you present as much as when you go away. But it used to take like two hours, if you have been fortunate.

Nate was proper earlier than me and was sick of ready. So he left and ran like 6 miles again to the lodge in Las Vegas. They did not understand he was gone for some time and needed to monitor him down, and he made them ship one other automotive to go and choose him up. I used to be dying laughing and knew precisely how he felt.

‘He tossed me round like a rag doll’

Maynard James Keenan is a multiple-Grammy-winning singer, songwriter and musician. He is finest generally known as the lead singer of Tool. He’s additionally a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt.

I’ve rolled Brazilian jiu-jitsu with Nate somewhat bit. Well, he rolled on me. He tossed me round like a rag doll. We did what resembled rolling.

When you’re rolling with someone like Nate Diaz — and I might think about somebody like Demian Maia — it is a complete totally different stage of understanding of the artwork. I may get into geeky particular stuff, however actually simply watching the transitions. You need to study them and really feel them.

It was fairly the “Holy s—, I have so much to learn.” Nate did not need to submit me. You can see, no matter adjustment he simply made there’s 5 submissions from proper there and he did not even trouble taking them. It was simply staring us all within the face and it was like, “Oh god.”

‘Turn off the clock’

Daniel Roberts is a UFC veteran and former Diaz coaching accomplice.

I used to be staying in his guesthouse for just a few weeks, there to assist him earlier than his combat with Benson Henderson in 2012. I’m a fairly good grappler as nicely. So we have been variety of going, and it was a stalemate. He was like, “Who is this guy?” Then he was like, “Turn off the clock.” And ultimately he handed my guard. He has loopy endurance. That was humorous. No clock. I used to be like, “Oh man.”

And he eats actually wholesome. It was after the combat; I went to McDonald’s. Nick came to visit and was like, “Whose McDonald’s is that?” It was such a shock. Like I simply dedicated against the law or one thing. “Who’s eating this crap?” I believe I received a Gatorade, like Gatorade is wholesome. They have been like, “Who got a Gatorade?” I believed I used to be doing good. Nate eats quite a bit of gluten-free stuff. Very clear. Organic. I may style the distinction too, and I felt the distinction once I was on the market.

‘Everyone wants a good friend like Nathan Diaz’

Hernandez recollects a time Diaz displayed the depth of his friendship.

I received run over by a automotive in Las Vegas in 2012. I’ve received a titanium bar in my leg, and I’m over right here pondering I wasn’t going to stroll once more. I needed to go to surgical procedure as a result of it was a compound fracture of my proper femur. I used to be within the hospital for just a few days.

Nathan pops up. I did not inform him; he discovered. He took the subsequent flight out, and he introduced me a complete bunch of nutritional vitamins from Whole Foods. He was like, “Don’t take that s—. Don’t take the pain pills. Take this, because this does this. If you’re feeling some type of way, hit some weed or something.” He introduced me a complete bunch of all-natural herbs, like therapeutic stuff.

It was good to see him. Everyone wants a good friend like Nathan Diaz — all people. I used to be struggling, working half time and paying lease in a Vegas condominium round that very same yr. He may have gotten his personal lodge room, however he stayed with me. He wished to see what’s up, see how I used to be doing.

“He’s a big leader, he’s a big captain. But he also just keeps everyone really connected. He lights up a room when he comes in. Not just because of who he is or what he’s done, but even before that. He just had that with his boys and his team. Until this day, he keeps true to that.”

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Gilbert Melendez

He noticed my fridge was empty. He went to Smith’s and purchased groceries. I believed, “Oh, he’s just going to chill all week.” And then he left the subsequent day. I used to be like, “You can take them.” He was like, “Dog, don’t trip. It’s all good.” Just taking care of me. He ain’t gotta inform you, he is simply gonna present you.

‘Nate will set you up like that’

Gracie recollects the day Diaz launched one of his coaches, Steve Heath, to Kron Gracie, Cesar’s cousin and a former UFC fighter and BJJ standout.

Nate knew what was going to occur, which was the humorous half.

Kron had by no means met Steve in his life, and Steve is like, “You Gracies, you guys are overrated.” Kron is like, “Who the hell is this guy?” Steve is like, “You’ve got that choke from the back, the rear-naked choke. You think it works. I bet you I can get out of it.”

Kron is an completed grappler. He grabs Steve and he places him within the choke and goes, “OK, on three. One, two …”

Steve had a Taser on him, and he tased Kron’s leg. Nate is on the facet, laughing. Kron lets go of the choke and begins chasing Steve across the health club. They’re going backwards and forwards like a sketch comedy present. Nate will set you up like that.

‘You guys have to purchase some new belts’

Mikey Singh Hothi is a member of the Lodi, California, metropolis council, a pupil of Nate Diaz’s and a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt.

Our Brazilian jiu-jitsu health club at Nick Diaz Academy is infamous for belts and the way difficult it’s to get one. So much of individuals from different gyms have been transferring over to ours as a result of clearly they wished to coach with Nate and Nick. So we might have a bunch of these blue belts from lesser gyms coming via, and we have been variety of infamous for demoting them.

There have been three of us white belts on the mat, and there have been three blue belts from totally different gyms that have been there. He had a white belt roll with every of the blue belts from the opposite gyms. And each single blue belt received tapped out by a white belt.

Afterwards, he had all people line up and he stated, “OK, everybody take off your belts.” We all put our belts on the bottom. I used to be like, “Oh my god, this is the moment I’m going to get my blue belt.” I used to be actually excited. He came to visit and picked up the three white belts that have been on the bottom and he gave them to the blue belts, like, “OK, you guys have gotta wear these now.”

And he picked up the three blue belts on the bottom, checked out us and was like, “You guys have to buy some new [white] belts” and simply walked off the mat.

The turning level

‘He figured it out’

play

1:15

After arguably one of the best callouts in UFC historical past, Nate Diaz explains to reporters why he determined to name out then-featherweight Conor McGregor again in 2015.

Randy Spence is Diaz’s coach, longtime coaching accomplice and good friend.

Nathan was a soldier. He simply did what he was advised. I believe in the long term it helped him out as a result of he received to see all of the intricacies to see how all the things labored.

Then when it was time for him to come back out of his shell and make his transfer, he was somewhat forward of the sport. When the time was proper for him, he was like: I can not be a soldier, it is time for me to be the boss.

He made that transfer proper across the Rafael dos Anjos combat in Arizona on Dec. 13, 2014. He’s all the way down to combat dos Anjos, however the circumstances weren’t nice [Diaz lost by unanimous decision]. He was variety of harm, and he was like, “I’m going to fight one of the best guys in the world and I’m not really getting paid.” I believe that was a blessing in disguise. I might say that is when he actually took his personal reins and sort of ran with it. And he figured it out.

When we went to combat Michael Johnson a yr later, I know it sounds cliché, however he scripted all the things that was going to occur. He knew what he was going to do. He knew he was going to win. He knew when he gained, he was going to name out Conor McGregor in a means that could not be denied. That was cool to see him make a mission and make it occur. If one thing may personify Nathan outdoors the Octagon, it was that week.

Nick wasn’t preventing as a lot anymore, and Jake wasn’t preventing as a lot anymore. It was variety of like a turning of the guard. It was like: I sat again and waited and allow them to run their course. He variety of internalized it like: It’s my flip to exit and do what I can do. Nobody ever held him again. He simply knew it was huge open for him.

The McGregor fights

‘Nate has them consuming out of his hand’

Dave Sholler is the previous UFC vice chairman of public relations, athlete advertising and improvement, and he is the present govt vice chairman of communications for the Philadelphia 76ers. He remembers the primary information convention for the Diaz-McGregor combat in March 2016. It occurred in UFC Gym in Torrance, California, and it got here collectively on brief discover after Diaz accepted the combat to exchange an injured dos Anjos.

What at all times struck me about Nate Diaz was, some guys within the combat sport are actually good at hamming it up and realizing when the purple gentle on the digital camera is on. You get one hundred pc genuine Nate Diaz on a regular basis.

I keep in mind there was one explicit query someone requested concerning the payday he was going to get from the pay-per-view, like, “What are you going to do with this career-high payday?” Nate was like, “I don’t know, probably just going to buy a lot of s—.” I don’t suppose individuals understand Nate is definitely actually humorous. And some of his pure supply is organically humorous, however when he needs to activate the comedic issue, he is aware of how one can do it as nicely.

When you’re within the enterprise of sports activities and leisure, you can really feel within the second when one thing is gold. I seemed out into UFC Gym and I noticed all these followers who confirmed up on brief discover, and Nate had them consuming out of his hand. Conor was doing the identical factor.

Then comes the stare-down. It’s one of the best stare-downs I’ve ever been an element of. You have these two guys who’re chock-full of emotion, there’s clearly animosity. It’s a packed home, two crews coming collectively — Ireland versus Stockton, California. I keep in mind pondering, “If something goes down here, this is going to be not only one of the craziest things to happen in UFC history, but I’m not sure we’re going to be able to regain control.”

‘I’m getting loss of life threats from followers’

Jon Anik is the top UFC play-by-play announcer and was the No. 2 broadcaster in that position earlier than Diaz’s UFC 196 combat with McGregor in March 2016. Anik recollects the commotion created when he talked on his podcast earlier than that combat about getting a 209 tattoo as an homage to the Diaz brothers, whose hometown of Stockton has a 209 space code.

I stated on the podcast that if Nate Diaz can beat Conor McGregor with subsequent to no actual preparation, I’m going to get this 209 tattoo. Then I stated on the present, I’d get it anyway simply out of respect for what these guys meant to martial arts.

I didn’t count on that this could unfold like wildfire. I actually didn’t count on that this could register on Nate Diaz’s radar throughout the pay-per-view week. What started as a enjoyable podcast bit received interpreted as a tough prediction by the backup play-by-play man towards Nate Diaz.

I’m sitting at residence and he says on the postfight press convention, “Jon Anik better get a motherf—ing 209 tattoo or I’m going to whoop his little ass.” I’m getting loss of life threats from followers. Like, “If you don’t get that f—ing tattoo, I’m going to come there and give it to you myself.”

Candidly, as soon as it drew Nate’s ire to no matter diploma, I used to be getting the tattoo, win or lose. So it clearly made for a greater story that he gained the combat. The tattoo on my left arm was inked 5 days later.

I keep in mind just a few months later seeing him for the primary time since I received the tattoo, and he requested to see it. I believe it was a fast burying of the hatchet. He understood that in the end this was not me taking a shot at him. He could not have been extra heat and cordial about the entire thing when he simply may have taken it personally.

‘Maybe Hollywood Boulevard Superman goes to get slugged’

Sal Iacono is a author and character on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” who’s recognized finest as Cousin Sal.

We have a bit the place we interview individuals on the road and get them to say unhealthy issues about someone, after which that someone is true there to faucet them on the shoulder. Normally they flip round and so they’re like, “Uh-oh, sorry, I didn’t mean it” or, “I didn’t say anything.” But we’ve got it on tape and we run it again.

When we did it with Nate earlier than his second combat with Conor McGregor in 2016, it was loopy. We variety of cold-called and received individuals from gyms and native MMA academies. We had individuals come all the way down to Hollywood Boulevard. So we had quite a bit of health club rats on the market with quite a bit of bravado. So much of speaking trash towards Nate. Then Nate, good to the bit, comes up from behind and faucets the man on the shoulder. And they stored going — like idiots. Like, “Yeah, I said that, and I mean it. Yeah, I said you were gonna get your ass kicked. You won’t get out of the first round.” I’m like, “What the hell is going on here?” If Nate tapped me on the shoulder, I’d run straight into visitors and hope I received hit by a double-decker tour bus proper there on Hollywood Boulevard. These individuals are standing as much as him much more.

He was a very good sport on the primary one, after which the second, he is like, “Hey, what’s going on here?” And then by the third one, it is like, “I’m not going to keep doing this all day unless I get to hit them.” Then it turned on me. I’m the prankster of “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” I keep in mind for a very good half-hour explaining, “Dude, no. I’m sorry. I have no idea why this is going the way it is.” I did not know who he was going to take it out on. I used to be like, perhaps Hollywood Boulevard Superman goes to get slugged within the jaw.

I felt unhealthy for Nate as a result of he did not know what to do. His pure intuition with somebody calling him out is to simply elbow the man within the jaw after which be finished with it. He was good sufficient to understand that wasn’t the best way to go on this scenario. For a minute, he thought we put them as much as it. “Kimmel Live!” doing a prank present and he perhaps thought he was double-crossed. So now I’m the man in peril, attempting to clarify to him, “No, no, no, these are a bunch of a–holes. I don’t know why they seem to be so brave in this situation.” I by no means, ever thought that might be the end result for the bit.

‘Let’s begin the present’

Chris Avila is a former UFC fighter and a Diaz protégé.

I keep in mind going to the UFC 202 press convention, and Nate was on time. They have been saying Conor is late. Nate was like, “I don’t care, let’s start the show.” Dana White was like, “We’ve gotta start; it doesn’t matter who’s late.” The press convention began, and Nate is okay with it. Conor is attempting to drag one of Nick or Nate’s strikes [by being late], clearly. Nate is doing the convention, and Conor walks in.

Then I see Nate begin getting up. Conor sat down like, “Oh, I’m here.” Right when Conor sits down, he begins attempting to behave all cool and humorous, like he was the present. I noticed Nate stand up and begin strolling out, like, “F— this s—.” He began strolling out and made Conor really feel silly.

Nate had a water bottle at one level, and I believe he threw it at McGregor teammate Dillon Danis and hit Danis. They threw a bottle again at us. Then another person threw a bottle, then they threw one other bottle. There have been simply water bottles throughout for some motive.

Moving the needle

‘The nicest man ever’

Travis Barker is the drummer for the punk rock band Blink-182 and a longtime MMA fan.

I filmed a video with TrippyThaKid and Lil Wayne, and Nate simply occurred to be in L.A. He simply frolicked and was within the video. Didn’t want any particular care, did not ask for something.

Those are my favorite individuals. You’re not the loudest individuals within the room. Just an important dangle.

It can be so totally different if I did not know Nate, as a result of I’d simply be like, “I bet that guy has a chip on his shoulder.” He’s simply so misunderstood. I believe the baddest motherf—ers are like that, although. They’re not gonna speak quite a bit or be out of management or be aggressive. Not till you push their buttons or you do one thing out of pocket do you witness that. He’s the traditional instance of that. Seriously, the nicest man ever. The sweetest man.

‘I received the president coming down right here’

Spence recollects the time President Donald Trump attended UFC 244: Jorge Masvidal vs. Nate Diaz at Madison Square Garden.

It was the primary time the president of the United States ever got here to a UFC combat. Nathan was like, “I got the president coming down here; this is a big deal.” Nathan was stoked on it.

We needed to take the lengthy strategy to the world as a result of they needed to block off some blocks for the president. To not make us wait, they wished him there at 3 o’clock. Nathan would not function that means. He was like, “Nah.” He would not have fought till midnight. It wasn’t price it, so we simply hoofed it. We received an enormous police escort. We walked about three blocks to the world. He stopped and talked to all people on his means in.

When we received there, we have been about to go to our dressing room, however that is when the president was arriving. So we needed to wait within the hallway for nearly 40 minutes to attend for the president to stroll via. I don’t know what his political views are and all that, however the president principally got here to observe Nathan combat. That’s fairly cool.





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