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Nate Diaz, Free Spirit, Is Being Sued for $1 Million

The fighter's former management firm claims it was never compensated for negotiating his biggest deals.

by Josh Rosenblatt
Jun 22 2017, 7:14pm

Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

For 10 years now Nate Diaz has walked through the UFC with the air of a free soul. Where other fighters have watched what they've said and played the part of loyal company-men and-women and humbly thanked Dana White and kept their thoughts to themselves and accepted their lots graciously and pared down the rougher edges of their personalities in an effort and stay in the good graces of the promotion and get ahead, Diaz has always stomped around like the lord of all creation, a liberated soul, saying and doing whatever he chose, indifferent to convention and expectation and the dehumanizing demands of commerce, refusing to acknowledge anyone's authority over him. At times he's suffered for his freedom (as all free souls must) but because of it he also won the opportunities that turned him into a rich and famous man. He's that very rare athlete who's been able to convert stubborn, antagonistic individuality into gold.

The problem is the world has nothing but contempt for free souls and will reach out to crush them every chance it has, especially when that freedom has been blessed with success. Nate (like his brother Nick) may exist in antagonistic obliviousness to the rules and expectations of the straight world but the straight world is always lying in wait to pay back free souls for their insolence. They may choose to leave the liberated alone as long as they never get too successful, but once success comes it brings with it an army of vindictive forces.

Case in point: Yesterday it was announced that Diaz is being sued by his former management team. The Ballengee Group filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Dallas County District Court claiming the younger Diaz brother committed theft, breach of contract, and fraud by not paying Ballengee for negotiating the contracts for his two fights with Conor McGregor, at UFC 196 and UFC 202. According to the complaint Diaz "unexpectedly terminated" his relationship with Ballengee in July 2016 after the contract for UFC 202 was in place.

Diaz made $2 million in disclosed pay for that fight and likely much more in pay-per-view revenue. He earned $500,000 for UFC 196. Ballengee is seeking more than $1 million in damages.

Ballengee has also included UFC fighter Leslie Smith and attorney Sam Awad in the suit because it's not enough for the world to crush a free spirit; it must crush those around it as well, to teach a lesson to anyone who might be getting ideas in their heads. The Ballengee suit claims Diaz and Awad convinced Smith to terminate her relationship with the management firm and withhold money she owed them as part of what it calls a "civil conspiracy."

See what happens? Nate Diaz, who came from absolutely nothing and never assumed he'd have anything, who has lived in constant and conscious defiance of the world and its ways, who has stayed true to the dictates of his soul and heeded only the commands of his own spirit, has been found guilty of committing the one true act of blasphemy in a corporate society: He broke the social contract by being willfully ignorant of it. Which isn't to say I'm giving him a pass. For all I know everything Ballengee's suit alleges is true and Nate Diaz tossed his managers aside without paying them for what proved to be the paydays of a lifetime. In which case Diaz deserves a just punishment. I'm just saying that there's a cruel and awful inevitability to the situation, an almost magnetic probability that anyone who makes his fortune in open defiance of the system that hands out fortunes is bound to get slashed back down eventually. If it weren't this lawsuit it would be another. Likely there will be another. From an angry employee, perhaps, or a jilted lover or an unsatisfied sponsor. The specifics matter less than the inevitability. It's only a matter of time before a man like Nate Diaz, who's been fighting in one way or another every day for the last 10 years, was bound to get beaten up by forces beyond his control or imagination.

It's just like the poet said: more money, more problems.