Twenty-four hours before MMA bad boy Nick Diaz lost a controversial decision to Carlos Condit and retired from the sport on the spot, all was serene in his world as he sat speaking with the doctor who had helped save his career. Diaz’s notorious scowl was unfurrowed, allowing full view of Las Vegas plastic surgeon Frank Stile’s finest work.
A notorious bleeder because of his sharp orbital bones, Diaz had turned to Stile for help in 2007. He had just lost a fight that was stopped because of severe cuts over his eyes.
“It was my experience with craniofacial trauma in my training that allowed me to sort of form a plan for Nick’s surgery,” Stile says. “My theory was that some fighters are just prone to facial lacerations because of their bone structures. So now we’ll remove the scar tissue because it’s weak, then burr down the sharp edges on the orbital rims, before planting new epidermis that should be stronger than what was currently there.”
He opened narrow incisions over both of Diaz’s eyes, removed scar tissue from several previous sutures, shaved down the bones around the eye sockets, and implanted fresh skin from cadavers to fuse with the surrounding skin and form a new, tougher “super skin.”
“I guess I was kind of [the guinea pig],” says Diaz, who before his loss to Condit had won 11 in a row since the procedure. “It’s worked out well. I’ve taken a lot of hard shots and no major cuts. Before, if I barely got hit I would start bleeding.”
Stile, who has performed the nearly two-hour surgery on a handful of other fighters, is hoping to verify the procedure with the American Society of Plastic Surgeons through biopsies and CT scans of fighters who undergo the treatment.
“A lot of the comments I read online are that you’re giving an unfair advantage to a fighter. But I’m actually taking a disadvantage away,” Stile says. “I’m making him normal, not better. If you break an arm, you put a plate in there. Is that an unfair advantage? No, it doesn’t make you stronger. It’s part of the healing process. That’s exactly what this is.”