- Ryan Hockensmith
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For a few years now, Cesar Gracie has pleaded with his fighter, Nick Diaz. "Smoke weed all you want—legally in California, you're allowed to," Gracie says. "Just stop talking about it."
And Diaz has, indeed, allegedly tried to avoid discussing his cannabis use, which is prescribed for him to deal with his ADHD. But Diaz is an open book. Ask him about anything and he answers. And sometimes, he answers like this. Diaz admits, he likes to get high, in addition to its medical purposes.
That leaves Gracie stung. That story appeared on April 9 in the Los Angeles Times. Diaz has the most important fight of his career on Saturday night, against Frank Shamrock. Yep, two days before his biggest bout, Diaz is in the LA Times discussing how he beats the California State Athletic Commission's drug test.
Gracie is 43, 18 years older than Diaz. He took in Diaz and his younger brother, Nate, almost 10 years ago, when the two wandered into his gym. They were loud-mouthed kids, tossing around even more middle fingers than they do now (which is a lot). That clashes—hard—with the respectful, arty Gracie tradition. The Gracie family is known as noble Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu pioneers who choke out opponents and bow to them afterward, not flip them off.
But over the years, he's grown into a father figure type for Diaz. He's watched Diaz insult opponents' wives and kids, have one huge win vacated after a positive marijuana test and secure his reputation as the biggest pound-for-pound punk in MMA.
"It really used to bother me," Gracie says. "When he's doing that, I thought it was disrespectful—and it is. But you have to know this kid. They're from a different generation, from that mold of younger fighter that grew up with TAPOUT, and that brash, loud-mouthed persona. He really is a good kid."
Other fighters say just that, that Diaz is punky, not a punk. "He's actually a really nice guy," says friend Benji Radach. "Even I sometimes see the stuff he does and shake my head."
Gracie certainly has done his fair share of head-shaking. Last May, he awarded Diaz with his BJJ black belt, a momentous event.
They hugged afterward and both said, "I love you."
Then stuff like the first preflight press conference announcing Shamrock/Diaz happens. After some back-and-forth jawing—which is MMA law at this point—Shamrock offered a handshake to Diaz. Diaz's response: that famous middle finger. And ample discussion of smoking weed, and how he beats the CSAC drug tests, and on and on.
Gracie sounds a little pained, and quite a bit resigned, to having a very un-Gracie-type fighter in his family now. When the LA Times story ran, Gracie officially made Diaz off-limits to the media until after the fight. The CSAC hasn't responded to an interview request to find out its reaction to a fighter offering up the perfect solution to beating its drug tests.
"What a distraction," Gracie sighs.
He wants to sit his fighter down—again—after the Shamrock fight and reiterate that he's fine with the weed-smoking, as long as it doesn't go beyond recreational/medicinal purposes (Gracie says he's not concerned about drug abuse, citing Diaz's training regimen, which includes triathlon competitions between fights, as evidence that Diaz couldn't possibly be Cheeched up all the time).
Gracie just needs Diaz to shut his pie hole about it.
"I want to try to finally get inside his head and convince him to stop talking about it," Gracie says. "I want him to be known for his skills, not his drugs. He doesn't need to be the spokesperson for cannabis."
Yea. That stuff. But is it a distraction?