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Nate Diaz reveals his fears ahead of UFC 279 headliner

Diaz goes inward for what scares him most – and it's not facing Khamzat Chimaev in his final fight for UFC.
nate-diaz

Nate Diaz fights in a fearless manner.

There is no opponent who frightens the MMA icon from Stockton, Calif. That includes the undefeated wrecking ball Khamzat Chimaev, who Diaz faces Saturday in the UFC 279 main event.

But Diaz is human. And while he is willing to take on anyone in the cage, that isn't the case in the wild.

"I was running in the mountains this one time, and some motherf-cker told me there were mountain lions around us," Diaz says. "That was scary as f-ck. They can run, and they creep up on you."

In addition to mountain lions, Diaz admitted to one other fear.

"Getting eaten by a shark," Diaz says. "During my travels I was swimming in this pier, and there were sharks in the water. It was overcast and dark, but we jumped in that water. I was scared with every breath I took. I still get scared thinking about it. It's probably the scariest thing I've ever done."

Fortunately, Diaz won't be bothered by a mountain lion or shark Saturday. He will, however, have to contend with Chimaev. With the exception of his last fight, where Gilbert Burns nearly knocked him out, Chimaev (11-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) has defeated opponents with relative ease. Chimaev is the overwhelming odds favorite, but Diaz (20-13 MMA, 15-11 UFC) has no issues being the underdog. He is looking forward to fighting in Las Vegas, where his long history makes this feel like a homecoming.

"I do feel like that," Diaz says. "I spent two years of my life fighting in Vegas. It feels right."

The bout at 279 marks the final UFC fight for Diaz. His next venture is as a promoter with Real Fight, Inc., where he plans to continue competing.

"I'm still going to fight, 100 percent," Diaz says. "I'll be part of this on the combat side. That's the plan.

"Real Fight, Inc. is going to be the real deal. People are going to see the best, so keep your eyes open."

Over the years, Diaz's contract with UFC has seemingly turned into an albatross hovering over him. At 37, he is now eager to build his own future.

"The UFC, they've been dropping the ball left and right, making me wait (for a fight)," Diaz says. "I'm done with a contract. That's why I'm done with the promotion. I'm not signing any contracts now. I'm doing my own thing.

"I'm proud of what I've done so far. But we're just getting started."

UFC 279 backstage brawl generates instant excitement

Due to a backstage altercation, the UFC 279 press conference did not take place as scheduled Thursday.

UFC president Dana White confirmed that the melee included six fighters, including Diaz, Chimaev, Tony Ferguson, Li Jingliang, Kevin Holland and Daniel Rodriguez. Unsurprisingly, this served as an instant momentum boost for 279.

While 279 has its share of star power, it is by no means a contender for the deepest card of the year. Obviously, that can change once the actual fights begin, but this card was missing intrigue and aura. After the brawl, one ignited by Holland and Chimaev, the chance of fireworks now exists.

Saturday night should be electric, especially if Holland (23-7 MMA, 10-4 UFC) defeats Rodriguez (16-2 MMA, 6-1 UFC) and has a chance to speak on the mic in the octagon.

This story first published at SI.com/MMA.