Miguel Diaz wasn’t expecting an opportunity to fight for the Cage Fury Fighting Championships flyweight title. In fact, he wasn’t expecting to fight at all.
Three weeks ago, Diaz was actually focused on his role as a coach of fellow up-and-coming fighters when he received a text that changed everything.
“Me and my business partner, Cody Hier, we have a gym over in Grand Rapids, Michigan,” Diaz said. “We actually had one of our amateur fighters fighting that Saturday I got the text. The fight was in Ohio, so I drove all the way from Grand Rapids to Ohio. I’ve already driven four hours, and I get the text as Cody calls me. I’m like, ‘Dude, I just got an offer for the title fight on Oct. 2,’ and he’s like, ‘Turn around right now. Turn around right now.’”
While Diaz is certainly loyal to the team he’s building at Daniel Gracie Grand Rapids, he knew this was a moment to focus on his own journey – one that has seen all four of his professional fights to date take place in the CFFC cage.
“I kind of just started all this from scratch when I was 24,” Diaz said. “Originally, I was in the process to be a New Jersey state trooper, and I was working as an assistant manager at Hooters. I remember when I was taking the written exam for the state troopers, they were saying, ‘Well, you better learn how to box because otherwise we just throw you into the ring before you get to the academy.’ So I was like, ‘Oh, crap, I’ve never been in a fight before, so I need to find a place to get started.’
“I started at this UFC gym down the street from where I lived in Blackwood, and I started training there. I got to take jiu-jitsu for the first time. It was funny because it was actually Jonavin Webb who was teaching us when he was the CFFC welterweight champion at the time. He was my very first jiu-jitsu class.”
Diaz’s passion for martial arts was immediate, and it has since become a way of life. That dedication is one reason he felt comfortable accepting a title fight on just three weeks’ notice when former champ Santo Curatolo, who was originally on the card, was called up for a shot on Dana White’s Contender Series.
Diaz (3-1) now faces reigning champ Phumi Nkuta (3-0) in the headlining bout of Saturday’s CFFC 101 event, which streams live on UFC Fight Pass from Parx Casino in Bensalem, Penn.
“It’s not like I stopped training,” Diaz said. “I was always training. I was rolling with my students between classes. Me and Cody, we kind of work doing our own thing during the middle of the day to get us ready. I was doing strength and conditioning, so even though I took this fight on three weeks’ notice, I was still in good shape.”
Diaz knows he’s drawing a tough assignment, regardless of prep time. The undefeated Nkuta claimed the title with an impressive decision win over former champ Alberto Trujillo in March and is already drawing interest from the sport’s biggest promotions. Diaz has nothing but praise for “Turbo” and even said his aggression is reminiscent of retired UFC great Khabib Nurmagomedov.
“Phumi, he’s definitely a tank,” Diaz said. “I watched his fight with Trujillo. He pretty much dominated. I also watched his fight with Ben Coyle, who actually trained with us at Daniel Gracie’s. He comes forward. He’s super strong, super athletic, very fast, and he’s relentless when he’s on top. He’s like a mini Khabib.
“Watching that fight with Trujillo, he was just constantly ‘attack, attack, attack’ while he was on top, and he rarely gave Trujillo any time to breathe. Same thing when he fought Ben. He’s just ‘attack, attack, attack, attack, attack,’ came forward, got the takedown, was on top most of the time and ended up submitting Ben in the second round. I mean, he’s the champ for a reason and he’s undefeated for a reason, so I know I’ve got a tough task ahead of me.”
Nevertheless, Diaz believes he will prove a difficult stylistic matchup for Nkuta and is perfectly suited to unseat the champ.
“I’m willing to match my jiu-jitsu vs. his wrestling,” Diaz said. “I’m a brown belt in jiu-jitsu under Daniel Gracie, and I’m very confident in my ability on the ground. Even if he is able to manage to take me down, I’m pretty confident that he won’t he won’t be able to slip past my submissions once we get to the ground.”
Should Diaz prove right, he might have to take a brief break from his coaching duties and focus on his own career, though that could prove its own challenge. Diaz’s passion for his growing crew is clear, and he’s quick to point out that the fighter he had to leave behind in Ohio did still prove victorious, picking up a TKO win in that amateur contest.
But on Saturday, those students will have a different role, as well, supporting their coach in his effort to become CFFC champ.
“Shout out to to all my students over at Grand Rapids,” Diaz said. “They’re going to be watching the fight for sure, and I just want to let them know that I’m definitely bringing this belt home.”
(This story first published at CFFC.tv)