For someone known for being, let’s say, a bit difficult when it comes to things such as pre-fight interviews and media functions, Nick Diaz has stolen the show over the last week when it comes to his UFC 158 main event against Georges St-Pierre this Saturday in Montreal. From an unforgettable tirade on the pre-event media teleconference to another epic series of quotes during Thursday’s final press conference, Diaz has opened up with both barrels on the champion before the biggest fight of his career.
It’s in stark contrast to the presser announcing the fight earlier this year, where Diaz was downright cordial to the man he’s been chasing for years. But as the fight draws nearer, Diaz isn’t about niceties and sportsmanship. He’s already in fight mode, and according to trainer / manager Cesar Gracie, that’s the only way he can be.
“I think with Nick, if he can’t complain, it’s foreign territory to him,” said Gracie. “If everything was perfect, he’s gonna make it imperfect because that’s the world he lives in.”
That comment from Gracie, who probably knows Diaz better than anyone outside of his brother, UFC lightweight Nate, is a telling one because it brings to mind a quote from future boxing Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins. Before “The Executioner” had the biggest money fight of his career against Oscar De La Hoya in 2004, he spoke of being relegated to ESPN undercards if he lost. That wasn’t true by a long shot, just like Diaz’ career won’t be put on the scrap heap if he loses to St-Pierre. But some athletes at the elite level need to have that paranoia in order to succeed.
Said Hopkins in 2004, “Motivation can come in all shapes and forms with me. If I go outside and all my tires are slashed, that’s motivation. When things run smoothly, somebody has to break a glass; somebody has to do something. Some people need bumps in the road to make things happen. It don’t always have to be downright dirty, ignorant stuff; it just has to be some type of motivation.”
Diaz, speaking on the media teleconference last week, made his motivation crystal clear.
“A lot of these guys right now are really important,” he said. “They have red carpet events and awards and magazines. I'm coming here to whoop this guy's ass and before you know it, this fight happens and nobody knows who I am as far as your mainstream magazines, and Nike and Adidas, and all your good stuff. I'm left out of that. I just think that I should be given the credit I deserve and that Georges St-Pierre should be given this sort of decorated opponent that he deserves. And I’m hardly that. That makes me pretty angry.”
Later on the same call, he gave hints of just how angry he had become with this perceived lack of respect.
“I don't care if there's a (camera) crew sitting in the backseat of my car,” said Diaz. “I just don't like what I'm not ready for and I don’t know about it. You've got Georges and they got someone over there powdering his nose out and they’re gonna send him off for a video shoot. He’s got someone who’s gonna make a Twitter for him, and now he don’t even know how to talk and how to act right. He’s got people living his life for him in the public, and I would just like to keep it real. That way I don’t got to put on no image.”
And when a media member asked the champion if he was, like Diaz said, pampered, the Stockton native erupted, kicking off a heated back and forth between the two combatants.
“I hope so, if I had that much money I'd be pampering myself the f**k up,” blurted Diaz.
Thursday’s presser wasn’t any more sedate, with Diaz poking and prodding at St-Pierre, who tried to keep his characteristic cool, even though his discomfort with the entire situation was evident. If Diaz wanted to get into the Canadian’s head, it looked like he succeeded.
Yet the funny part is, what would be described as gamesmanship from any other fighter may just be Diaz’ way. It’s not an act, it’s not something done to build a fight; it’s his way of dealing with the sport. In an interview conducted for the UFC 158 Countdown show, Diaz said, “If we (all the top welterweights) all hung out in the same gyms together, I’d be number one. They wouldn’t do as much as I do and they wouldn’t be able to hang out as long as I do. They’ve got a life to deal with, and I feel like I’ve been cursed with this in a different way.”
Cursed. It’s how Diaz feels in a fight game that he doesn’t think resembles fighting the way it used to be.
“If they deducted a point for people avoiding the whole technical aspect of what’s gonna happen or if they deducted points for stalling or moving away, then there would be no stopping me,” he said. “The only way to stop me is if you run away or you hold on for life. And there’s something wrong with that situation in the sport and they need to work it out.”
That attitude of defiance has cost Diaz in the past, most notably in his UFC 143 loss to Carlos Condit, where he didn’t try to implement his ground game until it was too late in the fight to get anything significant done. He wound up losing a close decision. Against St-Pierre, most pundits expect Diaz to get taken down by one of the best wrestlers in the game. If that happens and Diaz loses a decision, expect him to complain about losing a wrestling match and not a fight.
“This new martial arts works for them too when it comes to the way that everybody wants to be like GSP and wants to be strong and have that fitness and overcome that technical aspect by being stronger and more explosive and quicker, and beating you to the punch when it comes to the scoring in the five minutes,” said Diaz. “And it's really not what martial arts is about. This is mixed martial arts and that's what we should bring to the table for the fans, and that’s what the fans want to see. I've lost a s**t load of fights but guess what, I'm here. I’m here to fight because people know what they want to see. They want to see a real skill level, they want to see real boxing, real traditional jiu-jitsu and see it put together and mixed up. They want to see mixed martial arts. They don't want to see five minutes of holding.”
There’s Nick Diaz, breaking glass again. And whether you like it or not, you have to respect at least one thing about Stockton’s finest.
“I never walked away from any fights.”