Joe Riggs looks back at legendary hospital brawl with Nick Diaz

Tuesday July 23rd, 2013

Joe Riggs defeated Nick Diaz by unanimous decision during UFC 57 in February 2006.
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"You want some more, b----?"

The taunts kept coming from a small examination room 20 yards down the hospital hallway from where Joe Riggs sat, waiting to be seen by a doctor. His hands were bloated and throbbing, both of them broken from a nasty three-rounder that had gone down an hour or two earlier at UFC 57. Riggs had already won a hard-earned decision, but opponent Nick Diaz was testing his very short patience and egging on a fourth round. Not one to back down from such an invitation, Riggs barked back barbs from the triage area, his cornermen looking on with amusement, no doubt. In 2006, Nick Diaz and Joe Riggs, both in their early 20s, were two of the mouthiest, hotheaded young fighters on the UFC roster. Their bickering wasn't surprising.

This verbal ping pong game went for a few minutes, until Riggs was asked to provide a urine sample. He hopped off his gurney, specimen in hand, dragging an IV pole with him down the hall to the nurses' station. Of course, he stopped in front of Diaz's room and the fighters stared each other down.

"What do you want?" asked Diaz, venom dripping off his words.

"I just f----d you up on TV. That's two and you're out," said Riggs, referring to Diaz's back-to-back UFC losses. "Time to go back to the WEC." Riggs said he then turned back toward the nurses' desk to resume his task.

What Riggs remembers next was the sound of footsteps; he said he pivoted halfway around to meet them and was hit square on the chin by Diaz. Riggs dropped to one knee.

"He knocked half of my tooth out," recalled Riggs. "I saw it flying out and all I could think about was my wedding rehearsal I had to go to. Thank God it turned out only to be my molar."

Stunned and angry, instincts kicked in and Riggs shot for a double-leg.

For the next five minutes, Riggs said the fighters broke out into a full-out brawl, grappling for control and trading insults as they went. They spilled into nearby rooms, banging into instrument trays, sending flying metal clanging to the floor. Riggs' IV had been knocked out and blood was spraying everywhere like a bad horror movie.

"We were like two pit bulls in a china shop," said Riggs. "It was one of most crazy things I've ever been involved in."

A nurse watched, squealing like a siren, said Riggs, but no other medical personnel seemed to be around or came running. Riggs said Frank Mir and Tim Sylvia, who'd cornered Riggs earlier that night, stood nearby and watched. Neither would intervene, even when Diaz's brother, Nate, joined in and punched Riggs himself.

At one point, Riggs remembers the tangled mass tumbling into a linen closet.

"We were in close quarters, grabbing onto each other, almost like in a clinch," Riggs said. From there, Diaz was able to pin Riggs to a wall.

"My hands were broken," said Riggs. "I couldn't hit [him], so I was trying to knee him. I managed to get in some elbows. He had a gash on his hairline. His nose was bleeding."

Riggs said a burly cop finally tackled them and pulled them apart. The fighters were then sent to opposite ends of the facility for their medical care. A UFC-hired driver later took Riggs home, asked for his shirt splattered in the two fighters' blood, then sold it on eBay a couple of years later.

Riding home, Riggs said he could see the humor in it all and even smiled about it, though that that didn't last long.

"I get back home and the first thing I hear is that Nick knocked me out in the hospital. I couldn't even enjoy the win," said Riggs. "He knocked me down. I'll give him that, but I wasn't looking his way and didn't expect it."

If memory serves him right, Riggs believes he was fined $8,000 of his $40,000-$50,000 purse by the Nevada State Commission. He received reprimanding calls from UFC owners Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White, as well as matchmaker Joe Silva. If it's any consolation, it sounds like Riggs can take credit for encouraging the promotion to refine its post-fight protocol.

"I heard that after this, no UFC fighters [who have been opponents] are sent the same hospital after a fight," said Riggs. "They're all separated."

Over the years, he and Diaz have run into one another at events and functions. Riggs said they've nearly come to blows and always have to be separated.

"He's f-----g crazy," said Riggs. "Who would punch somebody at a hospital? I wouldn't. That guy's nuts."

The infamous hospital skirmish has become cherished MMA folklore, the type of tale that fans cling to for its authenticity. Riggs said he's asked about it more than any of his legitimate fights in the Octagon. Fans are constantly questioning fighters' motivations and debating just how tough they really are. With these two, there will never be any question.

Joe Riggs appears on Bellator MMA: Fight Master Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on Spike TV.

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