Conspiracy theorists were out in force after the UFC first ejected Nick Diaz from its planned UFC 137 main event, then hours later re-inserted him into the show’s co-featured attraction.
Depending on which message board commenter you asked, Diaz had either “chickened out” of his championship bout against Georges St. Pierre or the UFC was trying desperately to “protect” its popular welterweight titlist from certain defeat. Diaz himself seemed to buy into the latter, as he titled the YouTube video he posted after his removal from the card, “Looks like someone don’t want me to win!”
Early on, there were even rumors of a mysterious, phantom plane crash. So yeah, you could say there was a lot of misinformation zipping around out there.
Before Oliver Stone can get to work on a screenplay however, let’s be clear about a couple of things: Diaz’s ouster from the GSP match had nothing to do with the UFC trying to shelter its champion from a tough challenger or Diaz trying to duck a fight. Diaz simply told UFC brass he’d do one thing (in this case, attend a couple of news conferences) and then did another. Anybody who’s been around the fight company for any length of time knows perhaps the best way to find yourself rapidly unemployed is to lie to the UFC president. Just ask Todd Duffee.
No, the biggest puzzle here is not why the organization blew up Diaz vs. St. Pierre -- that part was perfectly justified -- but why the UFC still wants to have anything at all to do with Nick Diaz. If White can “never accept Diaz’s word” again as he’s said, why keep him around at all? And if he can’t be trusted with the responsibility of a UFC title shot, what happens if he beats B.J. Penn next month in Las Vegas?
About these things we can only speculate. White’s Friday interview with Yahoo! Sports’ Kevin Iole didn’t shed a ton of light on how Diaz went from the brink of being out of a job to being back in a fight that will feature prominently on the UFC 137 pay-per-view, but it did at least give some clues about why the company still wants him.
“To tell you the truth, the excuses he gave me [for missing the news conferences] made no sense,” White told Iole. “You’ve interviewed Nick Diaz before. You know what I’m talking about. But I started thinking about this: This kid is a real fighter and I love the B.J. Penn-Nick Diaz fight. He always does show up to fight ... He told me he couldn’t handle the pressure of the main event. It wasn’t that he couldn’t fight it or wouldn’t have fought it, but all the responsibilities that come with fighting in the main event, he said he couldn’t deal with that.”
While that doesn’t exactly sound like a ringing endorsement, it does indicate that given some time to think it over UFC brass decided (despite the headaches) they are better off hanging onto Diaz than letting him go fight for someone else. Even still, if the Stockton bad boy manages to pull off the victory against Penn -- he opened as a slight underdog, according to oddsmakers -- then the UFC will have an even more interesting decision to make.
Perhaps with different expectations from everyone, a second attempt at a fight between Diaz and St. Pierre could still work. In fact, the storyline kind of books itself, as one of the UFC’s most favored sons would prepare to take on the troubled child who refuses to play by the company’s rules. Certainly, Diaz is still a very marketable fighter and, in a weird way, this latest debacle has arguably made him even more interesting to the fight-watching public. But will the UFC ever again have enough confidence in him to put him in such a high profile spot?
If it does, at least now the fight promotion knows it will have to do most of that aforementioned marketing itself. It’s certainly not going to get any help from Diaz.