Diaz embodies Stockton strength

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Stockton is a proud city with a bad reputation.  It’s been named “America’s Most Miserable City” twice by Forbes magazine, yet most of its natives will unapologetically defend it from its critics’ attacks.

Likewise, Stockton’s Nate Diaz is a proud fighter with a bad reputation. A black belt in Jujitsu with a notoriously dedicated work ethic, he’s been criticized for his outspokenness and bad behavior.

However, on March 5 Nate Diaz showed the world why Stockton should not be underestimated.

With a mere 11 days to prepare, Diaz was chosen to face UFC Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor when McGregor’s opponent, Rafael dos Anjos, broke his foot while training.  Diaz epitomized the term “underdog”, as evidenced by some oddsmakers placing his chances of winning as low as 500-1.

Despite getting bloodied by McGregor in the first round, Diaz rebounded to force McGregor’s first UFC loss with a submission in the second round.

Like Diaz, Stockton has had the odds against it.  The city declared bankruptcy four years ago.  Around the same time, its unemployment rate was over 18 percent and its crime rate was the fifth highest in the nation.  But as Diaz proved at UFC 196, sometimes the odds don’t matter.

It would have taken a miracle for Nate Diaz to headline a pay-per-view match.  UFC President Dana White hasn’t been shy about his negative opinions of Diaz, who is known for frequent use of the “f-word” and obscene gestures in and out of the ring.  When Diaz was selected as a “last-minute” replacement to fight McGregor, some saw it as White serving Diaz up as a “sacrificial lamb”.

But based on Diaz’s post-victory comments, he obviously didn’t see it that way.  When told by the interviewer that he just “shook up the world”, Diaz responded, “I’m not surprised, (expletive).”

Like Diaz, most people would’ve expected it to take a miracle for Stockton to rebound from its troubles.  Forbes readers, however, might be surprised to learn that Stockton has emerged from its bankruptcy and is outlining plans to restore its financial stability.  Furthermore, the city’s crime rate is currently at a 15-year low and its unemployment rate is currently at 9.5 percent, nearly half of what it was three years ago.

While Diaz may be rough around the edges, he is genuine.  The same can be said about Stockton.  Diaz might give the middle finger to his opponents and drop the “f-bomb” with impunity, but it’s largely a result of a scrappy and defiant mentality forged by his Stockton upbringing.  This attitude descends from Stockton’s pride as a working-class town and a community that faces adversity with resilience.

Having less than two weeks to prepare for a major fight might not be the same as the turmoil caused by a major housing bubble burst, but Nate Diaz’s unlikely victory embodies the spirit of Stockton.