Not three hours ago I posted a story about my aversion to watching fights between two people who hate each other. Being a huge lover of MMA but an even bigger hater of all things violent, cruel, and malicious outside the cage, I admitted that watching fighters trash-talk and demean each other before, during, and after fights put me in a bad mood and made me doubt my otherwise unshakable love for mixed martial arts. Whether real or ginned up, I wrote, “I have no interest in the promotional politics of personal animosity.”
Well, in the immortal words of Groucho Marx, “These are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.”
Because today is Nick Diaz’s 30th birthday, a day for all fight fans and fans of the rhetorical possibilities of English obscenity to celebrate. And because I didn’t get him a gift I’m adding a caveat to my earlier post, and that caveat is this: I have no interest in personal animosity in MMA except when the fighter with the animus is Nick Diaz.
Every once in a while a person comes along whose very existence make you question your preferences and prejudices. Despite the fact that this person embodies the traits that most make your skin crawl, you can’t helped but be charmed by them, to not only forgive in them the “sins” you find so repulsive in others but to allow them to put doubt in your mind about your definition of the word “sin.” These people keep us honest; they force us to remember (in case we’ve forgotten) that none of us has anything figured out and that the surest way to be disappointed in this life is to buy into a set of principles and stick by them unflaggingly. They clear us of our illusions. Whether we’re racists, homophobes, liberals, conservatives, Jews, or Catholics, there’s always going to someone sent from somewhere to poke holes in our deepest-held beliefs.
That’s what Nick Diaz has done for me. When I first started watching MMA, he embodied everything I’d convinced myself I hated about the sport: He was disrespectful to his opponents, he trash-talked all the time (before fights, during fights, at post-fight press conferences, in hospital rooms), he bragged, he mocked, he mean-mugged, he needed to hate in order to fight and he refused to hide that fact. I couldn’t stand him. I was the kind of enlightened MMA fan who found nobility in the sport and wouldn’t deign to appreciate a fighter like Diaz. But what I learned eventually is that Nick Diaz wasn't a bad guy; he just didn’t have the patience or the inclination to lie about the reality behind MMA: that it’s all about causing other people pain, about breaking their bones and spilling their blood, about transferring whatever hatreds you have for the world onto one person temporarily and working out that hatred on them. I hated watching Nick Diaz fight because it forced me to recognize some ugly things about myself: that deep down somewhere, I liked the bragging and the bluster and the anger and the will to diminish and the old-school (ancient) notions of masculinity and dominance. Part of me loved the violence for violence's sake.
A wiser and wordier man than I once wrote that a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, and so in that spirit I confess here that both this post and the post before it are absolutely what I believe. I hate animosity expressed through violence and I hate blood spilled in anger and I hate hate and I hate when those things taint my beloved MMA. But there are times when I don’t. And for that realization I blame and thank Nick Diaz ... on this, his 30th birthday.
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