Going to pot
For mainstream sports fans thirsting for an athlete to come completely clean about taboo subjects in sports, here’s an introduction to mixed martial arts fighter Nick Diaz, who not only speaks openly but is willing to answer follow-up questions.
“I’m more consistent about everything being a cannabis user,” Diaz said in an interview with The Times last week. “I’m happy to get loaded, hear some good music . . . I remain consistent. And I have an easy way to deal with [the drug tests].
“I can pass a drug test in eight days with herbal cleansers. I drink 10 pounds of water and sweat out 10 pounds of water every day. I’ll be fine.”
Stockton’s Diaz, 25, is pitted against MMA veteran Frank Shamrock on Saturday night in San Jose in the main event of the first Strikeforce card on Showtime since the former promotional organization Elite XC folded last year.
Strikeforce inherited much of the Elite XC roster, and Shamrock-Diaz will be a 179-pound catchweight bout as Shamrock moves down from 185 and Diaz moves up from 160.
“This is a super important fight -- for Showtime to show the MMA world there’s a clear alternative to the UFC -- and that’s exactly why you’re seeing this matchup of exciting, forward-moving fighters who bang,” Shamrock, 36, said. “I respect [Diaz’s] talent, he brings it.”
What Diaz brings beyond flying fists and the ability to shut off a foe’s breathing by holding the opponent’s throat against his bottom leg is unbending honesty about his marijuana use, his frustration with his former bosses at the Ultimate Fighting Championship and his belief that steroids are pervasive in his sport.
“Let ‘em do it, they’ll have a shorter career than me,” said Diaz (18-7 with 10 knockouts, five submissions and a no-contest). “With all that wear and tear on their tendons, something’s going to explode. I feel like these guys are hurting themselves. You can’t consistently fight on steroids.”
Unfortunately for Diaz, state athletic commissions also ban marijuana use, and he tested positive for the illegal drug in Las Vegas after his impressive win over Japan’s Takanori Gomi in early 2007. A state athletic commissioner in Nevada argued Diaz was numb to pain because of excessive marijuana in his system. Diaz’s victory was vacated; he was fined and suspended for six months.
“The drug is banned because of the damage it does to the person taking it,” said Keith Kizer, Nevada State Athletic Commission executive officer. “It could make you lethargic, slow your reflexes, and those are dangerous things in a combat sport.”
The California State Athletic Commission said Diaz would undergo drug testing before and after Saturday’s fight.
Diaz, however, argues marijuana eases problems he has battled since childhood when, he says, he was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and prescribed mood-altering medication. His rebellion as a youth forced him to relocate to schools where he continually felt out of place and he ultimately became a high school dropout.
“I like the idea of being able to fight my way out of something,” Diaz said.
Diaz fought on his first professional MMA card at 18 and was on the UFC roster two years later. He was 7-4 in MMA’s premier organization, losing to two fighters who have since been suspended for steroids (Sean Sherk) and pain-killers (Karo Parisyan) and dropping another decision to current UFC lightweight title contender Diego Sanchez.
In 2006, Diaz was extended an invitation to compete on the UFC’s popular “The Ultimate Fighter 4" reality television series. He said he didn’t like the idea of being continually followed by cameras and speculated his presence was more a threatened order than a request.
Shortly after, Diaz and the UFC parted ways, although his brother Nate still fights in the organization. In Nick’s first post-UFC fight, he tested positive for marijuana. He suspects someone tipped off authorities. “I got high in my [hotel] room the night before every [UFC] fight,” Diaz said. But Kizer said Diaz was merely among 10 of 16 PRIDE Fighting Championships athletes who were tested that night.
Diaz is 4-1 since, earning a Brazilian jujitsu black belt in 2007 and complementing his intense MMA training by competing in triathlons. On March 29, Diaz finished fourth in his age group in an event in Sacramento as part of his training for Saturday’s fight.
Said Shamrock of Diaz: “He definitely smokes marijuana. That’s his own business, but it’s not the greatest thing for the sport. We’re fighting a stigma. Still, there’s something refreshing about his honesty.”
Diaz says he believes MMA fans admire his attitude, more so than his peers.
“I don’t worry about the sport, I worry about my own . . . teeth getting kicked in,” Diaz said.