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When Nate Diaz got the call for the biggest fight of his life, headlining against Conor McGregor at UFC 196 after lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos dropped out from a broken foot, he wasn’t training for a triathlon like Dana White kept saying to the media, but rather, pounding tequilas on a beach in Cabo.
It didn’t really matter though. At the end of the day, the Stock native was ready to go whatever the situation. Like he wrote on Instagram a few days after the fight “#alwaysreadyforwar in season or not.”
Heading into UFC 196, Diaz was a huge underdog. For good reason. McGregor was coming off one of the greatest knockouts in MMA history, when he slept the pound-for-pound king, Jose Aldo, in a record 13-seconds, and was riding an undefeated UFC record against names like Chad Mendes, Dustin Poirier and Max Holloway.
Diaz, on the other hand, had gone 3-3 in the past few years, and was coming into the fight on 11 days notice. Most people expected McGregor to make quick work of Diaz and move onto his lightweight title challenge.
The fight started as expected, with the Irishman quickly taking control of the Octagon and battering Diaz around with left straights, uppercuts and hooks to the body. But Diaz wasn’t reacting to McGregor’s punches like past opponents. Instead of crumbling under the pressure, Diaz absorbed the damage and kept wading forward under fire.
Then midway through the second round, the tide quickly shifted. A quick jab-cross combination from Diaz caught McGregor flush on the chin and the featherweight champion buckled from underneath him. In a matter of seconds, McGregor was shooting for Diaz’s legs, hoping to get some respite from the endless barrage of punches.
But as McGregor quickly found out, trying to out-grapple a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt trained under Cesar Gracie is never going to work out well. Diaz easily locked in a rear-naked choke and forced McGregor to tap.
Getting off the ground with blood streaming down his face, Diaz put up his classic double bicep pose and sneered for the camera. In a post-fight interview, Joe Rogan asked the younger Diaz brother, “Nate Diaz, you just shook up the world. How does that feel?” Diaz uttered the now-legendary words, “I’m not surprised motherfuckers.”
On my worst day, I’ll train for two hours. You know what I’m saying? Like, I don’t have hobbies. I don’t have too many hobbies. I’m always working, I’m always training.Nate Diaz discusses win over Conor McGregor | UFC on Fox
Nate Diaz’s training routine & diet
In the days leading up to his first fight with McGregor, Diaz worked with Damian Gonzalez, a pro triathlete who had been a part of Team Diaz for years. In an interview with MMA Junkie, Gonzalez explained their strategy to maximise Diaz’s conditioning in the limited amount of time they were given.
“He was going to cram in a lot of work in a short time, but he needed to recover from it,” Gonzalez said. “Basically what we were doing was shorter workouts, but a lot of workouts throughout the day, doing short duration. But the volume was pretty high, with a lot of intensity and a lot of recovery.”
For their rematch at UFC 202, less than 6 months after the first encounter, Diaz had the luxury of a full training camp this time. Diaz’s training schedule had the welterweight fighter putting in double sessions a day, six days a week. He trained out of his California base, where he worked primarily with former UFC fighters, Gilbert Melendez, Jake Shields and his brother Nick
“Two work-outs per day – if there’s a third, it’s because it’s weights day or yoga day,” Gonzalez told Sky Sports. “Usual work-outs are a triathlon work-out and a fight work-out, two-to-three hours each with a break to eat and refuel. One day off per week.”
In addition to honing his boxing craft and BJJ, Diaz did a lot of swimming, biking and running, as well as weightlifting for the rematch training. “He does weights once or twice a week,” said Gonzalez. “The weights are not super-heavy, it’s to build functional strength, not necessarily to become powerful. We do medium weights so they can move quicker. He’s been lifting consistently year-round. Early in the week, we do an extra work-out which is an hour of weights.”
Diaz’s heavy emphasis on triathlon has played a crucial role in his success as an MMA fighter. “I’ve been competing in triathlons since I was 18-years-old,” he said. “People say ‘you compete in triathlons because it helps with your fighting’. But nowadays I like to think I fight so I can afford to pay for some good races.”
In an article by Shaun Al-Shatti, which interviewed Diaz’s previous opponents, Rory Markham gave readers a glimpse of what it was like facing a fighter who seemed to have an endless supply of cardio.
“They have the length, they have the endurance to come back with three or four punches every time,” said Markham who was defeated by Diaz via TKO in 2010. “That cadence is what sets them apart, and their endurance behind that cadence. They set this rhythmic pace where you would think a punch thrown at a certain angle shouldn’t land with such strength. But it does. It lands just as hard as a perfect hook.”
When it comes to his nutrition, Diaz is well-known for being one of the few MMA fighters following a primarily vegan diet, though he does occasionally eat eggs and fish.
“I stopped eating dairy when I was about 17 for a fight,” Diaz told Men’s Journal. “And about a month went by that I didn’t eat cheese or milk, and then after the fight was done I got a big bowl of Fettuccine Alfredo, and I was like, ‘Finally, I get to eat what I want.’ Then I went home and was sick and had a headache and was in and out of the bathroom for a week. That shit really messed me up. So after that cleared up, I was like, ‘OK, I don’t need that anymore.’ I felt better and realized I work better without that stuff.”
“People are jumping on slowly but surely but I think it’s cool,” he added. “I think you’re a smarter and more intelligent fighter. Me and my brother are at the top of the game and have been for a long time. We’re obviously doing something right. Besides knowing how to kick somebody in the head, you should know how to feel good tomorrow.”
I like to promote the vegan industry. I hear a lot of criticism from people saying you need meat to be strong and for recovery, and it’s a bunch of bullshit, because I train harder than everybody. It’s so easy to argue with these people. I’m like, ‘Dude, have you done a tenth of what I’ve done?’Why UFC’s Toughest Fighters Are Going Vegan | Men’s Journal
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