13 Apr Nate Diaz And The Rise of Vegan Fighters
If you hadn’t heard the name ‘Nate Diaz’ before March the 5th 2016, chances are you have now.
At UFC 196, the Stockton born Cesar Gracie-trained black belt, Nate Diaz, put a stop to the 15 fight win streak of the UFC’s biggest rising star, the Notorious Conor McGregor.
Coming off a 13 second knockout of then Featherweight champ Jose Aldo, McGregor was scheduled to fight Rafael Dos Anjos for the lightweight belt at the MGM Grand. Had Conor beaten Dos Anjos, he would have made history as the first man to hold belts in 2 different weight classes at the same time.
But that would have to wait.
To the disappointment of the fans, Dos Anjos was forced to pull out of the title fight after sustaining a foot injury in training, just 11 days before the scheduled bout.
There were many names floating around for potential replacements, but in the end, in stepped Nate Diaz, who Conor agreed to fight at welterweight, 170 pounds (two weight classes higher than the division that Conor currently holds the belt).
Trash talk aside, with Diaz’s top class boxing and Jiu Jitsu game, and Conor’s freestyle fighting style, the matchup promised to be a barnstormer. And it didn’t disappoint.
After a competitive first round, a bloodied up Diaz increased the pressure, catching Conor with a hard right that stumbled him. Conor shot for the takedown, and the rest was history.
Nate’s ground game is widely regarded as one of the best in the sport. After quickly mounting McGregor, Diaz took his back and sunk in the rear naked choke, forcing the featherweight champ to tap.
Many were shocked, but Diaz himself wasn’t, stating in the post fight interview:
“I’m not surprised mother******!”.
The Plant Powered Veteran
Although Diaz may be a new name to casual fans of the sport, he’s been around a long time.
UFC 196 marked his 22nd appearance in the octagon, and 29th professional fight. He’s been in there with the best of them, and holds the record for the most ‘fight of the night’ bonuses.
And the interesting part? He’s done it all on a plant based diet.
In a 2012 interview, Diaz stated:
“I’ve been vegan since I was 18 years old. I’ve been eating raw for the last year and a half, not full complete raw, but as much as I can.”
Whilst Conor was having steak for breakfast to bulk up for the UFC 196 fight, Diaz was forgoing the meat, eggs and dairy, and instead fueling up on plants.
Many people adopt the vegan diet to minimise animal cruelty, but more an more are seeing it as a way to increase their performance. When it comes to nutrition, for some reason protein is often the biggest concern for many fighters. What most don’t realise is that you can get plenty from plant sources – lentils, beans, grains, nuts and seeds.
Diaz is a testament to that, with arguably some of the best cardio in the game today. And it’s not just Diaz who’s had success on a vegan diet.
Ultimate fighter Season 6 winner Mac Danzig is regarded as the ‘original’, along with veteran Aaron Simpson. Nate’s older brother Nick is also predominantly vegan, and many other fighters have dabbled with it, including Jon Fitch, Jake Shields, and heavyweight contender Mark Hunt.
There’s also a growing list of athletes that are thriving in their chosen sports, all without any animal products whatsoever.
With the spotlight once again on Diaz and McGregor as they clash at UFC 200 in July this year (the biggest event in UFC history), it begs to question:
With Diaz hitting the mainstream, does this signal a trend in the world of fighting, and in that of sport in general? Will we begin to see more an more athletes dropping the meat and dairy, and moving towards a vegan diet?
Let us know your thoughts below!
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