Join Date: Oct 2005
"UFC is a corrupt organization" , Nick Diaz
Six-figure contract with UFC on the line when Morada fighter Nathan Diaz enters the ring on Saturday in Vegas in front of a national audience
By Ted Mero
News-Sentinel Staff Writer
Last updated: Friday, June 22, 2007 6:43 AM PDT
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Nick Diaz isn't exactly fond of the Ultimate Fighting Championship these days. Those who run the UFC aren't so thrilled with him, either.
After pulling a mammoth upset at the hands of Pride's Takanori Gomi earlier this year, the 23-year-old Morada native was suspended six months by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for a positive marijuana test.
Still, as one of the more electrifying fighters in the sport, the UFC wanted to get Diaz's face in the spotlight, asking him to appear on "The Ultimate Fighter 5," the UFC's latest installment of the hit SpikeTV reality show. When he refused, it only made them more unhappy with him.
But a distaste for reality TV didn't keep Diaz from encouraging his younger brother, Nathan Diaz, an up-and-coming mixed martial artist in his own right, to take a stab at landing a spot on the program.
Both Nick and trainer Caesar Gracie, who works with both brothers, agreed that the show would help further Nathan's career. And it appears they couldn't have been more right.
What began as a house of 16 fighters looking to earn a six-figure contract with the UFC now stands at two: Nathan Diaz and Manny Gamburyan. The pair have already fought their way through three opponents and will battle each other live at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas on Saturday, the show's final chapter.
Nathan Diaz, a graduate of Tokay High, was skeptical of appearing on the show at first, but now that he's one fight away from a UFC contract, he has no regrets.
"I was in the same situation (Nick was). I did not want to go on the show," said Nathan Diaz during a phone call on Thursday from the Palms Casino in Las Vegas, where he's preparing for today's weigh-in. "(Nick) talked me into it and I'm glad I did it."
Nick Diaz is proud of his brother, one year his junior and with three fewer years of fighting experience, but his attitude about the UFC hasn't changed.
"I'm just happy to get my foot in the door for him," said Nick Diaz, by his brother's side in Vegas. "UFC is a corrupt organization. They don't use the best fighters, they use the most marketable fighters they can find.
"Reality TV is where it's at right now, but my job is to be a fighter."
He knows his brother's job is to be a fighter, too; reality TV just gave him more exposure.
During the six-week taping of the show, Nathan and his 15 roommates were deprived of TV, radio, books and phone calls. But what hurt him the most was being without Nick.
"They work, live and train together," said mother Melissa Diaz, who plans to watch Nathan's fight on TV. (She never watches her sons fight in person because it's too nerve-racking for all of them.) "They don't do stuff without checking in with each other. They respect each other a whole lot; they're a team."
Nick tried to work with his brother during the show, but the UFC shut him out. And because the elder Diaz is still under suspension for his positive drug test, he won't be allowed in Nathan's corner during Saturday's fight.
"It sucks," Nathan said. "He's supposed to be in my corner."
Adding to Saturday's drama is the fact that Gamburyan's cousin and trainer, UFC fighter Karo Parisyan, has been at his fighter's side throughout the show and will be again on Saturday. Parisyan only stirs up bad memories for Nick Diaz, who lost to the fighter in 2004 in a controversial split decision that still has Diaz fuming and wanting a rematch.
DIAZ VS. GAMBURYAN
What: The Ultimate Fighter 5 finale
When: Saturday, 9 p.m. on SpikeTV; live at 6 p.m. on DirecTV and Dish Network.
Where: Pearl Concert Theater at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.
At Stake: A six-figure contract with Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Fighting Out Of: Stockton
Weight: 155 lbs.
MMA Record: 5-2
Strengths: Boxing, jujitsu
Fighting Lineage: Younger brother of UFC fighter Nick Diaz
Born: Leninakan, Armenia
Fighting Out Of: Hollywood
Weight: 155 lbs.
MMA Record: 5-2
Strengths: Judo, jujitsu, throws
Fighting Lineage: Cousin of UFC fighter Karo Parisyan
"The scoring criteria is really shady," Nick Diaz said. "I don't think it does the fighters justice one bit."
When Nathan squares off against Manny "The Pitbull" Gamburyan, he'll try not to leave it to the judges. Both fighters will weigh in at 155 pounds, but Gamburyan is only 5-foot-5 to the 6-foot Diaz.
The shortest fighter of the show's 16 participants, few expected Gamburyan to reach the finals. That especially goes for UFC president Dana White, who twice counted out the fighter on the show before proclaiming that "Manny is 10 times the fighter I thought he was."
Nathan was hardly surprised.
"I knew he would do well on the show," said Diaz, who was teammates with Gamburyan and trained under Jens Pulver. (Pulver is fighting BJ Penn, his coaching counterpart on the show, in Saturday's main event.) "You have to look at it from a technical point of view. I think we should be rated pretty evenly."
Gamburyan's lack of height has actually been to his advantage, using his strong ground game to submit opponents. And what he lacks in length, he's made up for with a relentless and aggressive style that, to this point, has overwhelmed the competition.
The duo have differing styles, with Diaz well versed in jujitsu thanks to the training of Gracie, while Gamburyan is accomplished in judo.
"I've got to stay aggressive, stay on top, pound him and look for an opening," Gamburyan told the Orange County Register. "I'm a good jujitsu guy myself. I was rolling with him every single day. He's got good jujitsu. I've got good jujitsu. We went back and forth. It's going to be a crazy fight. That's for sure. I'm prepared for a war."
The key for Diaz, also a strong boxer and likely the more polished fighter, is to weather the storm early.
"He's more of a hold-me-down type of guy," Diaz said. "His thing is the ground and he'll most likely try to get on top. I have to defend the takedown, and if I get on the bottom, I can't sweat it; I just have to beat him up."
His brother is confident that won't be a problem.
"He has to go out there and outwork this guy," Nick Diaz said. "You watch (Gamburyan's) other fights and he took those other guys because they were trying to submit the better ground guy, the better grappler, instead of fighting the guy standing up. My brother knows when to get up and knows how to outwork somebody."
Now he'll get a chance to show it in front of likely millions of viewers.