Diaz to rely on gym lessons against Miller

UFC lightweight contender Nate Diaz has always followed in his brother Nick’s footsteps.

When Nick found Cesar Gracie’s Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Lodi, Nate soon followed him.

“I remember leaving school with all my boys and we’d be going to kick it at the park or whatever (and) we’d see my brother running down the street with a sweatshirt on, doing workouts and stuff,” Nate told UFC.com. “Everybody would be like, ‘There goes your brother. He’s working out all the time. What’s his problem?’ I’d be like, ‘I don’t know. That’s what he likes to do.’

“One day, I remember (Nick’s) like, ‘What are you doing?’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t know? I’m just hanging out.’ He said, ‘Why don’t you come train with me?’ And he threw a pair of gi pants at me. I didn’t have nothing else to do, so I said, ‘Let’s go.’”

Gracie’s gym is no joke.

“I remember it was really intimidating going down there,” Diaz said. “There was a bunch of 30- and 40-year-old men in there training. I think Nick was the youngest guy in there and then he brought me in.”

Gracie remembers Diaz being a wide-eyed 14-year-old kid when he first walked into his gym.

“Nathan had never wrestled, never boxed, never did jiu-jitsu,” Gracie said. “Guys like (former Strikeforce middleweight champion) Jake Shields and (Strikeforce lightweight champion) Gilbert Melendez, these were guys that were wrestlers and had some standup. Nathan got out there and he’s the kid that had to sink or swim.”

The Diaz brothers, Shields and Melendez went on to become great friends and training partners, but Nate, 27, was the youngest and he had to prove himself.

“Nick would be like, ‘Don’t get tapped out today,’” Diaz said. “It was really hard to not get tapped out in that gym. Most likely it was not going to happen.”

Gracie said Nick is more than a brother to Nate.

“Nick really took him under his wing,” Gracie said. “He was almost like a father figure in a way. He kind of showed him which path to take.”

There was no doubt that Nate was going to become a professional fighter.

“He was already going to fights, MMA fights, probably when he was 15 or 16,” said Nick, a former Strikeforce welterweight champion. “So he had no choice but to automatically learn jiu-jitsu, learn boxing and it came pretty natural.”

Nate made his pro debut in 2004 when he was 19 and he went on to win “The Ultimate Fighter 5” in 2007. He has fought in the UFC ever since.

Diaz closed out 2011 with an armbar submission victory over former Pride lightweight champion Takanori Gomi and a unanimous decision over Donald Cerrone. He faces Jim Miller in the main event of UFC on Fox 3 on Saturday at 5 p.m. at Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J. UFC president Dana White said Diaz is one victory away from a shot at UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson.

Diaz (15-7) will rely on the lessons he learned in Gracie’s gym when he takes on Miller (21-3).

NOTES

Diaz vs. Miller is a highly anticipated fight, but the one that could steal the show is the heavyweight scrap between slugger Lavar Johnson (16-5) and Pat Barry (7-4), who is considered a human highlight reel.

“If it’s up to me, we’ll stand and bang and see who lasts,” Johnson told Yahoo! Sports. “But (everyone in our camp thinks) he’s going to think twice about that after I hit him a couple of times. We’ll see what he chooses to do, but I’m pretty sure he’s going to try to take me down. And I’m pretty sure I’m going to stand there and try to knock his head off his shoulders. It should be fun.” ...

The welterweight bout between Josh Koscheck (17-5) and Johny Hendricks (12-1) at UFC on Fox 3 marks the first time in UFC history that two former NCAA Division I national wrestling champions will meet inside the octagon. This will be Koscheck’s first bout since leaving American Kickboxing Academy.

“It’s good, man,” Koscheck said on a conference call. “It’s good to finally, after eight years, to never have to travel and just stay at home and do my training right here in Fresno. There’s a lot of positive people around, so it’s good man.

“I’m in a great place and I can’t wait to fight May 5 and show that I made the right decision and have the right training partners and the right coaches.” ...

UFC on Fox 3 airs live at 5 p.m. Here are the main card bouts on Fox: Miller vs. Diaz; Koscheck vs. Hendricks; veteran middleweight Rousimar Palhares (14-3) vs. Alan Belcher (17-6); and Barry vs. Johnson.

Here are the UFC on Fox 3 prelims that air on Fuel TV at 2 p.m.: Tony Ferguson (13-3) vs. Michael Johnson (10-6); John Dodson (12-5) vs. Tim Elliot (8-2-1); John Hathaway (15-1) vs. Pascal Krauss (10-0); Louis Gaudinot (5-2) vs. John Lineker (19-5); Danny Castillo (13-4) vs. John Cholish (8-1); and Dennis Bermudez (7-3) vs. Pablo Garza (11-2). ...

The UFC has announced two bouts for UFC on Fox 4 on Aug. 4 at Staples Center. Former Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard, a former Olympic Judoka for Cuba. puts his 25-fight unbeaten streak on the line in his UFC debut against former WEC light-heavyweight champion Brian Stann and former UFC light-heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida takes on Ryan Bader. ...

Michael Chandler (9-0) makes the first defense of his Bellator lightweight title against Akihiro Gono (32-17-7) in the main event of Bellator 67 on Friday at 8 p.m. at MTV2 at Casino Rama in Ontario, Canada. Also, Ben Saunders (13-4-2) faces Bryan Baker (17-3) in Season 6 welterweight tournament semifinal and Ryan Ford (17-4) makes his Bellator debut against Luis Santos (50-7-1). ...

Cleber Luciano (5-4) of Huntington Beach goes up against Xavier “X-Man” Stokes in a 160-pound main event at Long Beach Fight Night 14 on Sunday at Hall of Champions Gym at Long Beach City College. Doors open at 3:30 p.m. and the first bout is at 4:30 p.m. Go online at LongBeachFightNight.com for more information. Tickets are 440-$60.