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Fight Week in Hawaii, Part 3: Punks.

I know I promised that Part 3 would come along sooner but I lied. I wrote it all out and then scrapped it, realizing I had no interest in recounting the fights and want to get straight to the mess after KJ Noons’ title defense. Despite this being rather untimely, I already did it, so suffer through it. Here’s Part 1 and Part 2, for those who missed ‘em.

Before I get into the groove of shooting the championship match, it’s over. Suddenly everyone’s rushing into the cage to congratulate Noons’ on his first title defense. I see TJ Thompson of Icon Sport walk up the cage with Diaz who looks to have just barely finished his medicals, still shirtless and wearing gloves.

When the UFC brought Sherk into the cage when BJ Penn won, it was Sherk, alone and in normal clothes. I surmise it is not a good idea to bring any fighter still full of adrenaline from his fight just minutes before to see another fighter whom he dislikes so dearly. From my lowly photographer’s position, I catch only feet. A lot of shouting tells me I’m missing out, so I hop on top of the EliteXC photographer’s box since he is now inside the cage shooting the obligatory belt shot. The moment I climb up, I hear “Fuck you!” and a chaotic brawl breaks out.

CU of body shot on Nick Diaz

KJ Noons’ dad rushes forward and EliteXC employees rush to break up the mess. Nate pulls brother Nick back as KJ Noons’ BJJ instructor Baruch throws a body punch. Karl Noons Sr. is able to grab Nick by the neck and even ProElite chairman Doug DeLuca, is prying Noons Sr’s hands off Nick. Nate Diaz hops over the cage and runs out while Nick backs out of the open cage door. In traditional Diaz fashion, they flip the bird as they stomp backwards to the locker rooms. I want to run after Nick but I can’t get past the many security guards.

Since I’ve been home I’ve read countless “Diaz brothers are punks” stories. I watched the videos and see myself snapping wildly as the near-brawl breaks out. Even when I got a text message at the airport informing of another tense moment in front of the hotel, I can’t help but defend the Diaz brothers. Over the last year, I’ve come to know a lot of fighters. Fighters are by far, the nicest athlete-types I have ever met. I have an often more intimate view of fighters, one you can’t glean from hype shows or post-fight interviews, and I can tell you they’re generally good people and do deserve a bit more compassion.

More importantly, since I shot the melee (at four frames per second during the duration of the fray), I know that Nick and Nate didn’t throw any blows. I know the business in front of the hotel the next night was also not initiated by them. What do you think makes us automatically censure the Diaz brothers?

I watch EliteXC employees pick up torn leaves from Noons’ lei from the canvas.

Upon returning to the hotel, I upload photos from KJ Noons vs Yves Edwards as well as the post-fight madness and head to the afterparty. It is 1 am. I am very late. I get to club Fashion 45 and while most of it has dispersed, Dave Herman, Wayne Cole, Po’ai Suganuma, and KJ Noons are still there. I make the rounds.

I wish I had something cool to say about the party but it was just a party. Yes, it was fun–though the DJ seemed to have ADD and wouldn’t stick with a song for more than 30 seconds, which really annoyed me. Even more so when he stuck on the mid-nineties and I felt like I was watching an old “Now that’s what I call Hip Hop!” commercial on loop. Best was watching young fighter Chris Willems, who I’m sure is underage, drunkenly hug every staff member in sight to thank them for being so kind and supportive even in his loss.

Before I know it, it is 3:30 am and I head back and stay up all night uploading photos. When the sun rises, I stare at the beach longingly, then pack my bags.

I get myself on a fighter shuttle to the airport with Ninja Rua and a bruised Muhsin Corbbrey. I talk with Muhsin’s corner about their other fighters, Muhsin’s upcoming San Shou tournament in China, and I wish I knew what to say. It is really awkward. At the airport, I chat with Showtime staff about getting more spots around the cage for photographers and text back and forth with owner/photographer Tracy Lee. The most adorable drug/agriculture-sniffing beagle comes by and sniffs my purse and camera kit.

Everyone boards. My aisle seat is fine, the little LCD TV, wonderful, my row buddy? Suicidal. I’m serious. I’m not making fun. In fact, I’m hoping he’s still alive and hopefully taking his sister’s advice to move back to O’ahu. My usual compassion for strangers is depleted. I am filled with a dull, circling pain since I cannot sleep and must listen to this man’s life story and opera singing (which is actually quite good). He was a nice man, talented, though still naive despite repeated defeats at the hands of the American judicial system.

The night ends with me, still exhausted, de-boarding the plane, getting my push cart stolen by some lady who simply threw a gaggle of words at me, swiping the cart in the confusion. Only been on the mainland for ten minutes and I miss Hawaii already.

  • Roo

    I do think it’s hysterical that everyone is so quick to jump on the two guys from a known crappy city, Stockton, CA when from the sounds of it both Nick and Nate were quick to do their best to get out of there. I like the Diaz brothers and it’s good to see someone defending them.

    Still, the whole thing sounds like a WWE-style set-up which MMA clearly doesn’t need.

  • Hattori Hanzo Gracie

    Interesting. Thanks for first hand account of stuff. I wonder if the Diaz brothers get blamed for any scuffle whether their fault or not due to their history. Nick Diaz seems like he’s fighting in slow motion or was it my tv?

  • garth

    i watched it.
    nick could have NOT gone in the cage in the minutes after the fight, as you say, all pumped up, as was noons. if it was a WWF hype-up, you talk your shit and get out. you don’t come in with gloves.

    i dunno what else to say. those guys may be the sweetest puppies in “real life”, but they sure don’t show it.

  • garth

    and esther, didn’t you have an adventure in there with mario?

  • Steve

    I don’t blame the Diaz brothers.

    I blame EliteXC for setting up the whole ‘confrontation’ in the first place. I’m sure Nick would have preferred to get treatment for his bumps & bruises and take a shower rather than participate in a WWE-style showdown.

  • Steve


    I don’t think Nick had the option of not going in the cage. I think his bosses at ProElite told him to get into the cage and talk some shit. I don’t think they anticipated it would turn into a brawl, but they definitely set up the confrontation.

  • garth

    i’d be pretty surprised if that were the case.

  • Hattori Hanzo Gracie

    I think Nick went in to the cage to hype the fight, noone at EliteXc told him too….but noone stopped him either

  • Jason

    For sure EliteXC arranged for Nick to enter the cage. Look at how Goldberg reacted, he knew what was coming the whole time.

  • goo

    “I see TJ Thompson of Icon Sport walk up the cage with Diaz who looks to have just barely finished his medicals, still shirtless and wearing gloves.”

    Definitely not Nick’s idea, and definitely a bad one. It doesn’t really matter though, does it? Ridiculous that anyone threw a punch and especially ridiculous that the Diaz brothers got blamed.

  • JoeRoganIsAnAss

    Very well done Esther!

  • Spork

    thanks for the scoop!

  • Aryan

    no video? wtf?

  • MrNiceGuyMMA

    People hating on Diaz brothers because they are from Stockton and are Mexican.

  • Hattori Hanzo

    I may be wrong but being born in stocton Cali makes them American

  • jewboy

    Even though in other photos it looks like Nate is hiding behind Nick, it’s the Noons clan that are the punks. The Diaz boys love to talk shit and fight later. It’s the other way around for the white collar Noons boys who seem more able to buy their way out of things.
    I hope KJ gets handled in the rematch, but unless Nick expands his training to other gyms, he’ll have the same predictable style. If Shields loses to Thompson, the big three Cesar Gracie stand-outs should open their eyes.

  • Fatal Error

    No Hattori, being born in Cali gives you a 25% chance of being Mexican. You could have a white guy and a black woman have a baby, and 1 out of 4 times, it comes out Mexican. That’s just the way it works out here.

  • esther

    Couple things, Garth, I didn’t say they wouldn’t fight if brought into the cage. I knew that something crazy would happen when I saw Nick standing by the cage, waiting to get in:

    And it was minutes. Nick’s fight ended, and then Yves and KJ come out a minute later, then the fight starts and it ends very quickly. The post-fight examination probably took 5 or so minutes, he did his interviews as well (with ProElite and MMAHawaii and maybe a couple other local things), and Nick came out and sat in the corral to watch the fight where TJ grabbed him to come into the cage. 10 minutes is still minutes.

    LOL @ Fatal Error. I suppose if you want to get into specifics, they are Mexican American.

  • esther

    Also, I bet y’all will watch the rematch. If it ever happens.

    It certainly brought a lot of attention to EliteXC. It’s negative, but it’s attention.

    Video for Aryan (Ugh, I don’t like typing that, bad memories):

  • kentyman

    Thank you for reiterating how Old Man Noons and Baruch actually started the fight. They are truly the punks in this situation.