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Outrage in Nevada: An Ode to Nick Diaz

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UFC middleweight Josh Samman reflects on Nick Diaz and the NAC's abuse of power.

Photo by Esther Lin

"Do you read English? Do you understand English?"

-NSAC commissioner Pat Lundvall, speaking to former Strikeforce World Champion, former UFC #1 contender, and Pride Veteran Nick Diaz

The culmination of a several year long battle pitting sensibility vs. Draconian marijuana regulation laws in mixed martial arts came to a boiling point today. The Nevada Athletic Commission mounted an extensive attack on logic and due process, funneled through an apparent vendetta fueled tangent, aimed at one Nick Diaz.

I was late to the watch party, joining live in the midst of a deliberation between a five year and lifetime ban for Diaz, citing an arguable third test failure for marijuana metabolites in competition.

I rewound the tape to watch the circus in entirety. The ring leader, Pat Lundvall, epitomized degradation as she spoke down to Diaz and his legal team with an overly defensive response to a sensible argument. Diaz’ lawyers called into question the validity of the test results with a refreshing amount of sound research and science. The roles had been reversed night and day from the last NSAC circus we had been subjected to.

The problem was that there were three samples collected, two of which came back under the allowed threshold for marijuana metabolites, while a third one above. The third, however, was processed at a lab not accredited by the World Anti Doping Agency, and that, inexplicably, was the specimen the commission chose to run with; not only the outlier, but one processed at a lab with questionable history.

The commission cared not to address those matters. They were instead content to call into question several times Diaz’ disregard for the rules, and in the same breath disregarded those rules themselves, as they played God with his career, throwing around unprecedented lengths of suspension, ones not written in any statute, new or old.

Finally, the decision was delivered. They agreed amongst themselves that a five year ban was essentially a lifetime ban for the 14 year veteran, and that was that. No more competition. No more cornering his brother, or Gilbert, or Jake, or any of his other teammates in all 50 states. The gross abuse of power in the final judgement was the last bit of proof needed to damn the NAC as being more concerned with self serving agendas and egos than the fighters’ best interests.

I watched, and I knew I wanted to respond. Some way. Any way. I have a voice and I need to use it. I was just speechless. I read as others in the media crystallized how they felt.

Connor wrote an open letter. Shaun Al-Shatti laid out the facts. Iole drove it home, hard. Finally Helwani published an interview that crumpled the writer’s block in my path.

"You know what it's like to move into a preppy Lodi school after being in a ghetto Stockton school with black and Asian kids? ...They would try to get me kicked out, and put me on drugs."

I can relate to a drastic culture change at a young age. I grew up with a liberal single mother in Florida, before getting in trouble and moving in with my father, a conservative living in rural Mississippi. My middle school at the time tried to have me kicked out, and I was recommended medication in preteen years.

I know what it’s like to have fallen too far behind in school to graduate. I know what it’s like to have all your eggs in one basket, your whole life determined only by your degree of moxie and grit.

"I’ll tell you whatever you wanna know, whatever you wanna hear. I don’t put on an act."

Diaz continued on, opening up for the first time ever about a high school girlfriend who killed herself on an eve that he felt he should have been with her.

Of all of the amazing, raw Diaz moments we’ve been blessed with, it’s with conviction that I can say it’s this incredible untold story that moved me more than any I’ve heard in MMA. I cried reading this. It’s the example of how the deepest ambitions can come from the darkest places that is my favorite.

The overwhelming need to try to represent where one comes from, the story of youth being cut short, living a life for the sole purpose of making a girl proud, running miles to and from gravesites, these are all things that resonate in me, heavily.

Diaz may have his detractors, and many of his critics may have valid points, but after today, I argue that anyone who can’t level, who can’t sympathize at least a bit, is lacking heavily in the human element. There are facets of Nick Diaz in all of us, whether we like it or not. Especially those of us in this sport, we all feel the need to prove something. We just go about it in different ways.

I was so proud of that. And that’s all anyone wanted to talk about, was my piss. -Nick Diaz on submitting Takanori Gomi by Gogoplata

For years, Nick Diaz has been the whipping boy of marijuana in MMA. While it’s partially because of that culture attachment that he’s gained such a cult following, I truly believe that no man wants to be a martyr, and from the sounds of things especially not Diaz.

I had the privilege of training with Nick for a weekend, years ago. I was young, and looked up to him. He was kind and welcoming, not anything like he comes across to the majority of MMA fans.

The resounding memory in my mind of that weekend though, was a simple interaction, just a few moments long.

My favorite fight at the time, and still high on my list, is Diaz vs Gomi, where Diaz famously beat Gomi with the unicorn of submissions in MMA: a gogoplata. He went on to famously fail his post fight drug test, for marijuana. It was in this moment that I truly think he became a star, but when I asked him about it, he had a face of disgust.

"Man.. That was one of the coolest shits I’ve ever done. I was so proud of that. And that’s all anyone wanted to talk about, was my piss."

I won’t ever forget the frustration in his voice as he told me that.

I watched the hearing on Monday with vested personal interest for many reasons. I am, and always have been, an avid Nick Diaz fan. I am a fighter in the UFC, who competes in Nevada. Finally, I am a habitual marijuana user, and have been since the age of 11. I use it recreationally. I use it medicinally. I use it socially. There are very few times in my life where you would be unable to find THC in my system, and those times are only in the weeks nearing competition.

So it’s with this that you may consider me throwing my name in the hat of strong marijuana advocates. I may not speak out through failed drug tests, but I’ll do it the best way I know how, with words and persuasion. I challenge the rest of the plentiful fighters who use our miracle plant to do the same. Is there a risk in doing so? Maybe. But as long as we’re drawing lines in the sand, I know what side I want to be on.