Nate Diaz follows in big brother Nick Diaz's footsteps
UFC lightweight contender Nate Diaz has always followed in his brother Nick’s footsteps. When Nick found Cesar Gracie’s Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Lodi, Nate soon followed him.
“I remember leaving school with all my boys and we’d be going to kick it at the park or whatever (and) we’d see my brother running down the street with a sweatshirt on, doing workouts and stuff,” Nate told UFC.com. “Everybody would be like, ‘There goes your brother. He’s working out all the time. What’s his problem?’ I’d be like, ‘I don’t know. That’s what he likes to do.’
“One day, I remember (Nick’s) like, ‘What are you doing?’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t know? I’m just hanging out. he said, ‘Why don’t you come train with me?’ And he threw a pair of gi pants at me. I didn’t have nothing else to do, so I said, ‘Let’s go.’”
Gracie’s gym is no joke.
“I remember it was really intimidating going down there,” Diaz said. “There was a bunch of 30- and 40-year-old men in there training,” Diaz said. “I think Nick was the youngest guy in there and then he brought me in.”
Gracie remembers Diaz being a wide-eyed 14-year-old kid when he first walked into his gym.
“Nathan had never wrestled, never boxed, never did jiu-jitsu,” Gracie said. “Guys like (Former Strikeforce middleweight champion) Jake Shields and (Strikeforce lightweight champion) Gilbert Melendez, these were guys that were wrestlers and had some standup. Nathan got out there and he’s the kid that had to sink or swim.”
The Diaz brothers, Shields and Melendez went on to become great friends and training partners, but Nate, 27, was the youngest and he had to prove himself.
“Nick would be like, ‘Don’t get tapped out today,’” Diaz said. “It was really hard to not get tapped out in that gym. Most likely it was not going to happen.”
Gracie said Nick is more than a brother to Nate.
“Nick really took him under his wing,” Gracie said. “He was almost like a father figure in a way. He kind of showed him which path to take.”
There was no doubt that Nate was going to become a professional fighter.
“He was already going to fights, MMA fights, probably when he was 15 or 16,” said Nick, a former Strikeforce welterweight champion. “So he had no choice but to automatically learn jiu-jitsu, learn boxing and it came pretty natural.”
Nate made his pro debut in 2004 when he was 19 years old and he went on to win “The Ultimate Fighter 5″ in 2007. He has fought in the UFC ever since.
Diaz closed out 2011 with an armbar submission victory over former Pride lightweight champion Takanori Gomi and a unanimous decision over Donald Cerrone. He faces Jim Miller in the main event of UFC on Fox 3 on Saturday at 5 p.m. at Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J. UFC president Dana White said Diaz is one victory away from a shot at UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson.
Diaz (15-7) will rely on the lessons he learned in Gracie’s gym when he takes on Miller (21-3).