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Even as a no-show, Nate Diaz blazes a path over UFC 241 | Opinion

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ANAHEIM, Calif. – Nate Diaz already won the week Wednesday, when he showed up at UFC 241 open workouts, strolled onto the stage at Honda Center, smoked a blunt, then passed it around for his weed-friendly fans to enjoy. 

On Thursday, Diaz remained the card’s top story even in his absence. 

It’s not an official Diaz brothers fight week until the Stockton crew flakes on a big media event. Diaz had already connected with the people on Wednesday, so sitting for an hour in a crowded room full of reporters wasn’t too high on his agenda.

Thus, the UFC was left to take down the interview station with his name card, which had been set up before media day at the Hilton Anaheim. Afterwards, his opponent in Saturday night’s welterweight co-main event, Anthony Pettis, found himself up on stage with UFC president Dana White for a face-off that was missing a face.

Asked why he chose not to go, a Diaz spokesman told MMA Junkie that “Nate addressed the media at length on Wednesday after his open workout and covered a number of topics. The UFC had been made aware.”

They sure have.

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Diaz’s actions over the past two days have overshadowed even a heavyweight title fight featuring one of the game’s best carnival barkers in champion Daniel Cormier, who defends his belt against Stipe Miocic in a main-event rematch.

But then, Cormier has always been a company man, and Diaz and brother Nick haven’t. And Nate Diaz’s presence this week – or in Thursday’ case, lack thereof – has served as a vivid reminder of just how much things have changed in three years. 

Diaz last stepped in the cage at UFC 202, where he lost a majority decision to Conor McGregor in what was, at the time, the biggest-drawing pay-per-view in company history. The August 2016 bout was about a month after the announcement that the UFC, which had been a unique combination of the Wild West and an overgrown mom-and-pop shop under the the stewardship of the Fertitta brothers, was being sold to Hollywood corporate titan Endeavor. 

The UFC’s tradeoff in becoming a multi-billion-dollar, Disney-broadcast juggernaut that blends into the scenery of the sports landscape has been the loss of the sense of spontaneity, individuality and rebelliousness, which drew so many people to mixed martial arts over the preceding decade. 

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The bouts can still have that wow factor on fight night, and as long as that’s the case, the UFC will be all right. But the days where you go off on quirky tangents trying to figure out something as bizarre as whether smoking a CBD cigarette will get someone in trouble are much less frequent than they used to be, and that’s made the sport a lot less fun.

It’s probably a good thing we no longer see bush-league advertisers like Condom Depot during UFC broadcasts, but on the other hand, only a middle-school gym teacher could appreciate Reebok’s ability to make all the fighters look like they were produced on an assembly line. 

Diaz’s actions over the past two days have reminded us what we’ve been missing in the absence of both he and older brother Nick, who hasn’t fought since his memorable-for-all-the-wrong-reasons bout with Anderson Silva in 2015. 

It’s fitting this is being held in Anaheim’s Honda Center, host of some of the wildest scenes during the era in which the brothers Diaz made their names.

nate-diaz-tokes-up-ufc-241-open-workout.

(Dave Mandel-MMA Junkie)

Diaz’s fight with Pettis will go down in the same building which hosted the first UFC event ever in California after the state legalized MMA, UFC 59, highlighted by Tito Ortiz’s legendary win over Forrest Griffin in the former’s UFC return. It was the place that hosted UFC 63, where Georges St-Pierre laid his memorable “I am not impressed by your performance” line on Matt Hughes right after Hughes rallied to beat B.J. Penn. 

It’s where the over-the-top tackiness that was Affliction (and we’re not just talking about their clothes) – from the oversized ring to repeatedly halting a show so washed-up metalers Megadeth can perform to a Donald Trump appearance – played out over two shows in 2008 and 2009. It’s where Cain Velasquez slayed the beast the was Brock Lesnar in 2010. And it’s where Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche ushered in the women’s UFC era in 2013.

It’s also fitting this fight is a tailor-made Diaz classic waiting to happen. Diaz and Pettis have a combined eight post-fight bonuses in their past nine bouts. Diaz’s ring rust notwithstanding, this has all the makings of another blood-and-guts barnburner.

We don’t know how many times we’re going to see Nate Diaz fight again. We might already be done with Nick. So appreciate what Nate brings to the table this fight week. And, hey, if you live in a state where it’s legal, light one up on Saturday night, whether it’s CBD, indica, sativa, or hybrid, and appreciate the excitement and unpredictability Stockton’s most famous brother combo has provided the sport for so long. 

Gallery

UFC 241 open workouts: Best photos

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