As Aug. 20 approaches and we all begin our countdown to the rematch between Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor, one question continues to pop into my mind: Does the aerobic capacity of Nate Diaz enhance his durability?
Making a living from training athletes tends to cause my curiosity to drift toward the physiological and biomechanical aspect of competition. The fighting styles and personalities of both Diaz brothers are unique to say the least. However, I believe the backbone of their training and confidence comes from their regular participance in triathlons.
MMA is an anaerobic sport sustained at an aerobic rate. This makes recovery the name of the game. How hard can you work and how long can you maintain that rate of exertion? If your body is trained to optimally utilize every breath of oxygen in a high stress environment, then your recovery rate is going to be much higher. Even further, every strike you absorb and every take down you defend has a degenerative effect on the level of gas left in the tank. The ability to swim, bike, and run very long distances that Nate Diaz exhibits forces his nervous system into an environment of extreme stress and fatigue, thus demanding that his body pick up the rate of oxygen transportation to working muscles.
Diaz understands that when he steps into the cage to fight, his time under tension will be significantly less than a triathlon. I mean, in reality a 5 round fight wouldn’t even cover a fraction of what it takes to complete one of those races. Now, I’m not saying that a triathlon is harder than a fight altogether, but in terms of sustained neuromuscular demands, then yes that is what I am saying.
Both Nick and Nate have shown extreme durability in their fights time and time again, having been dropped multiple times only to recover and come back to win. Nate’s only TKO loss ever was a head kick from Josh Thomson, which if you go back and look was a full speed shin across the face, and he still didn’t even go out cold. He threw that mean mug on and tried to play it off. Unfortunately, there is no real science based research to show that surreal levels of endurance play a role in punishment absorption. However, there is something to be said for the capability that Nate has to drown his opponents in a tidal wave of volume and output.
Is it the triathlons? Or could it simply be that Stockton water he’s been drinking his whole life? My guess would be swimming, biking, and running for hours on end might play a bit of a role. Either way, we know that stamina and durability are weapons for Nate and certainly Conor has accounted for that this time around.
(Adam Tindal of Orlando, Fla. is new MMATorch Specialist columnist focused on the sports science of exercise. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Performance Enhancing Specialist, and has USA Weightlifting certification . He studied exercise science at UCF and current works for a sports performance company in Orlando. He has practiced Muay Thai for nearly ten years and is a passionate follower of MMA.)