Very few things in combat sports go further than a solid post-fight or post-match interview, and Cornell wrestler Yianni Diakomihalis just learned that even after three NCAA titles, it might have been his own brutal honesty that took him from champion status to must-see TV.
No MMA fan will forget where they were when Nate Diaz let Joe Rogan know that he “wasn’t surprised, MF” after upsetting Conor McGregor in the main event of UFC 196. No boxing fan will forget where they were when Mike Tyson said his win over Clifford Etienne was done with a doctor-diagnosed broken back.
Nobody is calling a third National championship forgettable, but for the next 25 years, when Diakomihalis’ name is brought up, people will immediately think of exactly where they were for his ESPN interview following his semifinal win over Ohio State’s Sammy Sasso.
Diakomihalis accused himself of wrestling “like a coward,” clearly frustrated with his performance. When he was asked how to get over the mental block that led to a lesser performance he simply said, “have some nuts” before walking off screen.
“I wasn’t really aware of all the consequences for when I said that,” Diakomihalis said. “I was just really frustrated with how I wrestled and thought, ‘I’ve got to stop talking before I say something else.’”
This far removed from the interview, it’s hard to guess what Diakomihalis may have said before walking off, but if the running joke in the locker room is true, it definitely could have gotten him in hot water.
“The post-match interview, we joke, is where you catch guys saying the dumbest stuff because you’re getting their purest thoughts,” Diakomihalis said. “If you get a guy who’s extremely confident and thinks that they’re the man, they’re going to walk off and tell you they’re the man. If you have a guy who’s very critical of himself, he’s going to walk off and be critical. I feel like, in general, combat sports breed guys who are very critical, very, I would argue, self-aware. They’re always looking for the next thing and always looking back at what they can do better.”
Immediately following the viral walk-off, Diakomihalis feared the repercussions of the unfiltered thought before seeing that, just like in the world of MMA, if you give the fans something to listen to, you’ve given them something to watch.
Sure there was some chirping online about Diakomihalis speaking too highly of himself, but by the time he was standing on the podium for the third time, it was already becoming a fairly common phrase throughout the sport.
“You’re never going to reach the top even when you are the best; there’s things you can do better,” Diakomihalis said. “There’s just so much going on. Whether it’s wrestling or fighting there’s so many aspects that it’s hard to be perfect. It’s hard to wrestle for seven minutes, walk off and be like, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong.’”
For those moments where you’ve particularly let yourself down, no need to wonder specifically what to do better. Sometimes you’ve got to just face facts and tell yourself to “have some nuts.” Three National championships and a classic microphone moment just may come of it.
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