Why did Nate Diaz slap Khabib Nurmagomedov in the face way back in 2015?
The confrontation between Diaz and a group of Dagestani fighters, which was led by Nurmagmedov, has gone down in mixed martial arts (MMA) lore, but Nate’s own explanation for what happened hasn’t gotten as much attention as it should.
The initial brawl went down during a Word Series of Fighting (WSOF) event in Aug. 2015 (watch it). The Diaz brothers were there to watch Jake Shields fight (and lose to) Rousimar Palhares in WSOF 22’s main event. Khabib’s group was there to support his brother, Abubakar Nurmagomedov, who beat Jorge Moreno on the main card. After an initial dust-up in the stands, a full-on brawl ensued outside the WSOF event in the lobby of Planet Hollywood.
In an Oct. 2019 interview with Ariel Helwani for ESPN, Diaz explained how things went down from his point of view.
“When I ran into him and his team at the World Series of Fighting, they were taking a group picture because I was standing there watching Jake [Shields], my friend, fight,” Nate said. “And they took a picture, a group picture with me behind them, just to laugh at me, like make fun of me. You know what I’m saying?
“I’m trying to watch my friend walk out, trying to watch his fight. And then he’s like, ‘Hahaha, c’mon man, shit, haha,’ and they’re all laughing, like 12 Russian dudes.
“Yeah, I slapped him in his face for making fun of me,” he continued. “I was like ‘What, bitch?’ and he didn’t do nothing. Security came in and he was like [chill]. And then I got kicked out, didn’t even get to see my friend fight. I was so furious. So, I waited for his motherf—ing a— to come outside of there, and I went to get his a— again, and he ran off.”
“I shouldn’t have done that,” Diaz reflected. “I shouldn’t have done that. It was reckless, it was stupid, you know what I’m saying? I was mad. But, he was picking on me!”
A proper fight between Diaz and Khabib never came about, though. Diaz went from fighting three or four times per year to just once a year through 2014 and 2015. In 2016, he stepped in last-minute for Rafael dos Anjos to fight Conor McGregor, beating “The Notorious” via rear-naked choke in round two. After losing a rematch several months later, Diaz wouldn’t compete in the Octagon again until Aug. 2019.
As for Nurmagomedov, he spent his 2015 on the sidelines with a torn meniscus in his knee and a rib injury. He returned in 2016 and won three more fights to earn a title shot, taking the vacant Lightweight title in a fight against Al Iaquinta in 2019.
Speaking of 2019, Diaz and Khabib had another run-in that year at UFC 239 when some foolish UFC staff member seated the two fighters a little too close. Words were exchanged, security was called in, and Diaz was escorted away from cageside.
Our chances at seeing the two compete in the Octagon are extremely low. Khabib retired from competition in 2020 and Diaz left UFC to explore free agency. We wouldn’t rule out another run-in at a UFC show or casino parking lot, though.
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