You have to be a special kind of fighter for Nick and Nate Diaz to take you under their wing. But, 24-year old Nick Maximov is something special, and he’s ready to show the world.
Growing up in Chico, California, Maximov had an active childhood, participating in a number of sports. He eventually traded one sport for another, but was always an athlete, whether it be in baseball, football, karate, wrestling, or BJJ.
“I played baseball my whole life, but I eventually got bored,” Maximov told Cageside Press in an exclusive interview ahead of UFC Vegas 47, which marks his first bout of 2022. “I remember watching a Bruce Lee marathon, and then I started watching Jackie Chan, which made me want to do karate. I started doing karate in like the sixth or seventh grade, and then I quit because I was kind of just over it. Basically, I was going to ditch baseball, but I was still playing football.”
Maximov played football all four years in high school and even contemplated going to college to play. He also wrestled in high school. In the end, he wound up wrestling at Clackamas Community College in Oregan City, Oregan, because he knew he wanted to fight. “I just knew I was going to fight, so I figured wrestling in college would help in the long run,” Maximov said.
The 24-year old also trained in jiu-jitsu full time in high school and boxed to help with his stand-up. While in high school, he started training at the Nick Diaz Academy in Stockton, California.
Maximov got linked up with the Diaz brothers through Randy Spence, one of the trainers at the Stockton academy, who is also one of Nate Diaz’s primary coaches. Spence, who is now Maximov’s head instructor, worked with Maximov’s dad in the early 2000’s, and when Maximov was competing in tournaments around 2011 and 2012, Spence told him to come train at the Nick Diaz Academy. The rest is history, as he has been training there ever since.
The first time Maximov went to the infamous academy, he was a freshman in high school, and he recalls it being a very intimidating day.
“It was crazy. It’s a no-joke gym and academy. It was super intimidating, especially because I was so young. I’d be lying to say I wasn’t very nervous because it is the cream of the crop,” Maximov said. “If you train and you’re good, you got nothing to be worried about. They’ll be cool if you’re about it and about that lifestyle, but if not, if you’re just here just to get a picture and stuff, it’s like, you’re going to be treated as such. It’s different. When you’re fighting with them on a daily basis that’s when you get nervous.”
In 2018, Maximov became the Diaz brother’s training partner, and they became his.
“It goes both ways. We all both help each other, but we got a bunch of good guys right now. We got Lucas, who’s great, you know, Rudy, Big Mike, Mikey, Chris. I mean, the list goes on and on. We’re stacked and only getting stronger,” Maximov said.
In 2020, Maximov got his big break by competing on season four of Dana White’s Contender Series. It was a strange one, however. On relatively short notice, he fought up two weight classes at heavyweight against Oscar Cota. He didn’t care.
“You don’t get a whole lot of opportunities fighting in the UFC or in life, so it’s one of those things where it’s like do or die,” Maximov explained. “I was fighting a good power puncher, you know, southpaw guy. I decided to fight a heavyweight with 4oz gloves. There wasn’t much more to be scared of after that. Do you know what I’m saying? That’s one of those things. It’s kind of like, you know, face your fears. It was like that. Kind of like that saying, ‘when you’re scared the most to jump, that’s when you jump.’ Well, I jumped.”
“I remember his one of his punches landed on me from the bottom. I was like, that thing hurt; why would you want to stand with a guy like that? He was a full-on 300 pounder, and when his jab landed, I felt it. So, I took his ass down and won.”
Maximov won a unanimous decision but was not awarded a contract. Instead, UFC President Dana White offered him a spot on season 29 of The Ultimate Fighter. He passed.
“I talked to Nate about it, and we chose to ride it out. And I think, you know, it obviously paid off. I just didn’t want to be in a house with a bunch of dudes like that. I mean, it’s just it just seemed kind of weird for sure. Plus, all the dudes were all lame. The coaches were okay. I don’t know. Brian Ortega is cool, but they’re kind of not my style. The only thing that was kind of appealing was being on TV, but even that was lame. Couldn’t we get some girls or something? It is what it is, though,” Maximov said.
While he was waiting for his next MMA fight, Maximov went back to competitive grappling, competing for Submission Underground for times. Maximov was going to compete on Dana White’s Contender Series again for season five but instead got called directly to the main roster.
“It was crazy. They offered me to fight Cody Brundage in June, and then I accepted the fight for October, which was f*cking annoying. I hate when they do that. Then Karl Roberson needed an opponent for UFC 266, and I stepped in. For whatever reason, Roberson pulled out, and then Cody stepped up, which was a much tougher opponent. I basically fought him on a week’s notice,” Maximov. “I was hesitant of the opponent switch because I didn’t prepare for a style. This is a whole different match-up that you’re trying to offer me. But you know, we didn’t come this far not to fight, so we took it. And then the rest is history.”
Maximov won his UFC debut via unanimous decision, which of course, was a huge accomplishment and something that he is very proud of, but something else happened that night. Nick Diaz fought, and for Maximov, that was a bucket list memory.
“Fighting on the same card as Nick was something that I didn’t think would happen. It just wasn’t in the cards. I can take it off the bucket list type thing. I fought on the same card as Nick, and I trained with him; it’s something you would see in a book,” Maximov said. “Hopefully, the next one will be fighting on the same card at Nate. It has to happen. Time will tell.”
Maximov faces Puna Soriano next at UFC Vegas 47 in the co-main event. While many might see this as the classic grappler vs. striker match-up, the Stockon product doesn’t see it that way. He does like the match-up, though.
“I liked the match-up as soon as I looked up who it was. I think I’ll finish him, but I don’t like predicting fights or gameplans, you know? I just go with the flow in there. A fight is a fight. The only thing I have to watch out for is his power, but everyone has power. I fought some dude who was 300 pounds and spar pro boxers; I’ve felt power. People will see what’s up,” Maximov said.
The 24-year old sees all of the trolls that say he is just a grappler, but it doesn’t bother him.
“Yeah, it doesn’t matter to me. I don’t really care. I think it’s all funny, and I think people who talk sh*t online are funny. I got a joke out of it. I’ll usually just like smoke a joint and start reading it all and just crack up here. People take it to heart and take it personally. I really don’t care what people say, think, or do,” Maximov said.
“When you grow up around Nick and Nate, outside sh*t just doesn’t get to you. We are more honest with each other than anyone online will ever be, and that is what matters. Nate has got his jokes, and we talk shit all day, but no one takes it to heart.”
While Maximov will be tied to the Diaz brothers for a while, he doesn’t mind it. He thinks it is an honor. Of course, he plans on making his own name in the sport of MMA, but for the time being, whether it be a ‘Diaz Protege’ or the ‘Third Diaz Brother,’ it’s all cool.
“It’s all good. I’d rather be their protege than like Karamu Usman’s protege. I’d much rather be Nick and Nate’s protege than Khabib’s protege or whatever. No disrespect to them as fighters or whatever but Nick and Nate are really cool people.”
“I’m trying to carry the Diaz lineage and everything with me for as long as I fight.”
Nick Maximov faces Punahele Soriano in the co-main event of UFC Vegas 47 this Saturday, February 5, 2022 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.